Take Care of Your People and Your People will Take Care of You

By Tom Bryan | May 15, 2013

Years ago I read a book called “12: The Elements of Great Managing.” I can’t say it transformed my professional life but its core takeaways stuck with me. The book’s premise is that, through extensive polling, it had been discovered that 12 simple questions universally determine employee job satisfaction. Question No. 1 is elemental: “Do I know what is expected of me at work?” The other 11 questions address praise, clarity of mission, voice, sentiments about co-workers, workplace friendships and opportunities for professional development. The collective essence of the questions is reflected in the managerial insight offered in this issue of Ethanol Producer Magazine, both anecdotally and in the form of hard data about ethanol plant employee salaries and job satisfaction.

This month’s cover story profiles ICM’s disciplined, stepwise quest for cellulosic ethanol, but our theme is different topic altogether: personnel recruiting, training and compensation. It’s brought to life in an ambitious 20-page section anchored by Holly Jessen’s infographic-dense reveal of our 2013 U.S. Ethanol Plant Personnel Compensation & Job Satisfaction Survey. The detailed results of the survey, starting on page 36, provide a snapshot of an industry that employs a satisfied, well-compensated and increasingly experienced workforce. It also depicts a workforce that is loyal, well-trained, highly educated and hard-working.

Once again our survey reveals that money isn’t everything. America’s ethanol plant employees, while appreciative of their salaries, rate job security as the most important determinant of their professional happiness, followed by a positive workplace atmosphere, good benefits and, finally, competitive pay. Ethanol producers have known this for years, and as we discover in this month’s Q&A with Big River Resources’ Deb Green, maintaining a positive workplace environment starts with the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Cultivating a thoughtful, supportive work environment, along with great training, competitive pay and good benefits, has enabled Big River to achieve an extremely low turnover rate, and because of it, industry-leading financial and operational performance.       

Jessen’s other feature in this issue, “More than Just Staff,” on page 48, delivers additional insight about attracting and retaining employees. In it, Ascendant Partners’ Scott McDermott advises producers to offer competitive compensation programs even when margins are tight. Our salary survey indicates that most producers agree with him. Despite difficult times facing the ethanol industry, 68 percent of survey respondents said they received a raise in the past 12 months; 69 percent of respondents also received monetary bonuses in the same time period. The bottom line: The U.S. ethanol industry is providing high-paying, rewarding careers to thousands of men and women who, in return, make American ethanol plants run efficiently, safely and profitably.


Tom Bryan, President & Editor in Chief