Farm Family: Insights into Maple Ridge Farms' Employee Retention

Shana Gardner, Operations

Employee acquisition and retention is a hot topic these days.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of February 2019, the unemployment rate was only 3.8%, with 7.1 million job openings but only 5.7 million hirings.  This has resulted in many companies struggling to find qualified employees while avoiding turnover.  Here at Maple Ridge Farms, though, we've created a culture that encourages our employees to not only sign on, but also to stay and build careers.  It's so effective that we've even been named one of PPB's best places to work!

I surveyed our employees to get some insights into what brought them to the Farm, as well as what's kept them here.  Read on to hear some of the stories of what makes Maple Ridge Farms such a great place to work!

The average tenure of our full-time employees is almost 18 years, with time ranging from 9 months to 33 years.  Many people who retire from their careers here even return to help out during the busy season!

When asked what brought them to the Farm, our staff members provided myriad reasons, from hometown proximity to reputation to pure luck.  Some came based on word of mouth from current employees, while others spotted a listing in an ad. Still others had special situations, like Sue K., Proofing/Cards.  She said, "I was working for Mosinee Cold Storage for Tom’s co-owner at the time and MRF had started out in the MCS facility. As the business grew they decided to build, and when they moved in 1990 they asked me to join the MRF team, so I did!"

Maple Ridge Farms presents job openings throughout the community to prepare for the busy season, at everything from school events to job fairs to golf outings.  Additionally, we offer a referral program as an incentive for existing employees to bring in friends and family—quite a few of our employees started out as referrals!  Casting the net over a broad area helps to make the community aware of the opportunities we provide.

Most Maple Ridge Farms employees were new to the promotional products industry when they joined the team, having held positions as ginseng farmers, military officers, airline workers, and retail customer service—just to name a few!  It can be a drastic change, but also a rewarding one, as Shelly M., Sales, shared: "The type of work for the management company [I formerly worked for] was on the buying end of the food service chain, not the selling end as with MRF. I have had to rethink strategies and procedures with this different position—it has been a real learning experience!  I learn something new every day!"

Although many reasons brought people to the Farm, there was one overwhelming reason cited for why they stayed: the people.  The Maple Ridge Farms team is truly a family, one that supports and encourages every member, from our president to every team member.  With family comes flexibility, whether it's needing special hours, time to care for a sick loved one, or taking that much-needed vacation; we believe in providing people with the time they need to live their lives, regardless of the reason!

Additionally, people enjoy the challenge and variety of daily tasks that help them know the company as a whole.  Pam O., Accounting, said, "I really like helping out in other areas and being able to learn other parts of the process.  I know it’s only been 9 months, but there hasn’t been a boring day yet!" Even though days can be challenging, there's always a team member happy to help out if need be, further fostering that sense of family.

When asked about their biggest takeaway from their time at the Farm, it once again circled back to the team being family.  Jim B., Imprint, said, "Good people working together can accomplish anything." Isn't that the truth? We build relationships within the team that can move mountains (or thousands of orders during the peak season).  

Staff didn't only learn about relationships, though—they also learned about learning!   Molly N., Sales, shared her takeaway: "Never say you’ve seen it all… because you likely haven’t.  There is always a new challenge or unique project just around the corner—just waiting for a creative solution!"

Finally, I'd like to share some favorite memories of our team members:

"The first show I attended I was 12 years old. I went with my mother to the show in Minnesota and I had to wear her business clothes as I didn’t have any dressier clothing. It was probably that moment I wanted to be just like her, I was so proud."

Joelle S., Marketing

"Fatigue can often make a funny situation seem hilarious.

During the early years in production we used to write all our outgoing truck shipments on a large calendar so we would never miss a shipment.  One day I brought in the details for the person to write down. I told her almost everything, then she asked me to wait, so I let her catch up.  Then she asked me to wait again which was odd since I was already waiting. Then she said “wait” again and again and again. I finally said, “I AM waiting!”

She looked at me with a smile that one gets when they know something funny that you don’t, and said, “The weight of the pallet.”

We laughed like it was the funniest thing that had ever happened."

Jim F., IT

"When [my husband] was paralyzed pretty much everyone was so amazing and helped us(me) in so many different ways. I am forever grateful for this."

Sue K. Proofing/Cards

And, to cap it off, my own story...

In my early days, I worked my tail off to get a huge order.  The day we finally closed on it and got the PO, I was standing at my desk with my head whirling when Tom came over to shake my hand and congratulate me for landing the opportunity.  The consistent recognition and appreciation of everyone’s hard work by all team members is part of what really makes MRF special.

What makes Maple Ridge Farms a company that's able to win as many awards as we have is the strength of its team members and the relationships they build with the company and within the team itself.  The sense of community and family makes work seem less, well, work-like, which not only draws employees in, but keeps them. When you love your work, it shows!