Want success? Take care of your people – Part 2
As I mentioned in part one of this series, success on the farm starts and ends with good employees. We discussed the qualities of good managers and how good management starts at hiring. In this second article, we will talk about what managers can do to keep employees engaged once they are hired.
Talk to everyone every day
I have a cousin who once worked for a well-known and colorful manager on a farm just outside of New York.
She said he would come out every morning while she was feeding calves and talk to her. While it was a small thing to do, she said he made her feel like she was the most important person on the farm in those moments and she always felt appreciated.
Stress is common in any workplace, and the farm is no exception. Open and positive daily communication is essential to getting to know all employees and their jobs and alleviating high-stress situations.
Taking the time to walk the parlor and talk with employees daily can help reduce turnover too, but it also creates a good time to give feedback. Too often, employees on dairy farms don’t receive feedback on how they are doing. Find people doing things well and tell them, respectfully correct actions that don’t meet expectations, and show people you trust and appreciate them.
Get people in the right seats on the bus
Have you ever had an employee, who you perceived as unremarkable, leave your farm and become a standout employee down the road? In Jim Collins’ book Good to Great, he says effective managers must “put people in the right seats on the bus” by getting to know their employees and recognizing their strengths.
Some people will be better at tasks than others. It may be beneficial to take a step back during these types of situations and ask if the problem is with the employee or with the specific task assigned for that employee. This is especially important before you make a personnel decision.
Take the time to match employees’ positions with their skills and they may just do a better job than expected.
Good employees will always matter
Although the dairy industry will change in the future with the growing interest in automation, the need for employees and good management will not go away. Robotic systems will still require people to manage them, even if this requires a different type of employee with different skills.
While we have largely relied on immigrant labor for the 150 years we have sold dairy products commercially, this may slow down or end completely. Labor costs and the cost of living aren’t going down.
We need to do a better job building a positive perception of our jobs and recruiting quality employees. Not every job can give you the power to personally influence the success of the company, work hours that accommodate your schedule, and the ability to positively impact mankind, but we do it every day in agriculture.
Build connections within your local community, school district, technical college, or university and share this message to raise awareness of dairy farm jobs. Spend time to get to know the local workforce and identify how your dairy farm may meet their goals and interests.
Perhaps one of the most important things to do is adapt your thought process and strategy for recruiting employees as our workforce and labor needs continue to evolve. As the farm constantly changes, so should the way we manage.
About the author: Peter Coyne is a dairy field service specialist and sales manager in northwest Wisconsin and eastern Minnesota. With a passion for dairy, he has extensive personal experience in dairy farm management and shares his expert knowledge with dairy producers in his area. Coyne works closely with farm employees to boost feeding efficiency, animal husbandry and management techniques. He provides consulting and training in nutrition and production management to dairy producers as well as Vita Plus staff and dealer partners. Coyne is also well respected as an expert in the dairy cattle show ring.
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