The 12 Month Contract – Who does it benefit?

It is a slightly worrying trend that some of the larger agrochemical distributors are seeking to protect their key assets, agronomists, by tying them into twelve month contracts and/or additional restrictive covenants. The enforceability of the long term covenants is highly questionable and when challenged in court is commonly rejected as being overly protective of the employer’s interest. 

Surely, given the worth of a successful agronomist to the distributor, the optimum approach would be for the senior management to provide an environment where the individual feels involved, valued and invested in.  The long term tie in appears to me to be reflective of a disjointed management culture that has little appreciation for its people but a singular drive to deliver shareholder security. 

The freedom to transfer your employment is a powerful tool that should drive senior management to ensure appreciation, consideration and support of you and your relationship with your farmer customer. There appears to be a correlation between long term contract implementation and a stealthy marginalisation of the agronomist’s relationship with the farmer. Whether it is a drive to sell wider inputs via additional individuals calling on farm or increased investment in either telesales or online ordering, the wish to dilute your relationship is apparent. 

Different employers have specific approaches to the long term tie in and it comes as no surprise that the agronomy businesses that we partner take a more pragmatic approach. Driven by the owners and /or shareholders they create an inclusive culture where people feel a part of the business, as a result they suffer little staff turnover and tend to attract the above average performers. 

Over the last few years a significant number of individuals and teams have successfully changed employer despite what initially seem to be onerous contracts of employment. Interestingly very few agronomists set off to work for major corporates and thankfully there are still organisations that can provide a stimulating and rewarding environment where people really do matter.

Martin Thorley