How to Build a Happy Aquaculture Team

AQUACULTURE icon Giles Cadman January 17, 2023

A happy team is the cornerstone for a successful business. Happy employees are more productive, more creative, and much more likely to stick around.

But building a happy team isn’t straight-forward. What works well for one industry might not work well for another. The same can be said for different businesses within a specific industry.

That being said, there are some tried and tested ways for creating happy and successful teams.

Here are my top 5 tips for building a happy aquaculture team that I have collated over the last 20 years.

5 Steps to Build a Happy Aquaculture Team

1) Invest in Training

Aquaculture is still a new industry, so most people you employ will be inexperienced. That makes comprehensive training the most important part of creating a successful team.

Without a doubt, the most demoralising thing in aquaculture is a mass mortality event. Without training, these will inevitably happen, and they will happen often.

So, it is essential that you teach your team the parameters of what causes mortality, and avoid that instead of aspiring to keeping the stock alive.

2) Set Realistic Goals

Setting goals is an easy way to ensure that everyone in the team is striving for the same thing. However, the goals need to be realistic in order for them to be useful.

Setting a goal of losing zero stock in a quarter isn’t realistic and will cause people to lose heart when they are unsuccessful. Whereas a goal of lowering the mortality rate from last quarter is a stretch goal that will encourage teamwork and healthy competition.

But a goal is only half of the process, they should come hand in hand with rewards.

3) Reward Success

I can’t stress enough how important it is how to have a culture where you reward success. When I say reward, I am not referring to bonuses and pay rises (although they work really well) because not every company has that kind of capital.

When employees feel like that have been seen and appreciated, they will be more motivated to do the same thing again.

Full team reward programmes can be really effective if you want to encourage teamwork. It can also help create the culture that “we are all in this together.”

4) Allow People to Test and Learn

The happiest teams I have are the ones where everyone is allowed to test and learn.

It’s important that people have autonomy over their work, and giving everyone the space and resources to “try something different” is a brilliant way to achieve that.

It’s also a brilliant way to innovate. The best person to find a solution to a tedious job is someone who has to do it every day. Nobody is more driven to find better ways to clean tanks than someone who spends 3 hours every morning doing it.

People go into aquaculture because they like research and development, and they want to be innovators. The great thing about aquaculture is that it’s still such a new industry that you can give people a chance to put their name on it, which makes for a tremendous working environment.

5) Create a Collaborative Culture

Aquaculture is 24/7, 365 days a year. There are long shifts, night shifts, there are nigh shifts, weekend shifts, and holiday shifts. Where I’ve seen entrepreneurs really get it wrong, is leaving these all shifts to the junior people. Then things go wrong because there is a lack of experience on site, and that engenders a blame culture.

Training junior staff is time consuming and expensive, so you want them to be happy, meaning they stick around and progress within your business. To avoid junior staff leaving prematurely, it is really important to treat them fairly.

That means splitting the less pleasant shifts and jobs between everyone, regardless of seniority level.

And in aquaculture, one of those jobs is cleaning. When I split this task between everyone, there were more benefits than just a happier team. When senior people do the mundane jobs, they often find a better way to do it. For example, one of my guys created a self-cleaning tank, so he never had to clean at the weekend again.

6) Accept the Loses

The toughest thing about aquaculture is inevitable stock loses. With the current technology, there is no real way to avoid it, and it can be challenging when the “responsibility” for these events falls on one person’s head.

That’s why it’s really important to encourage team spirit and remind everyone that we all win and lose together.