Want success? Take care of your people

Posted on October 16, 2017 in Dairy Performance
By Peter Coyne
Employees are the most valuable asset on a dairy farm and managing those employees well is the true key to success on a farm.

This doesn’t just happen.  Being a good manager is a conscious decision and, if a manager can’t establish a culture of trust and order, communicate expectations, and provide tools and training opportunities for employees to be successful, then the odds of a farm being successful are low.

In this first article in a two-part series, we will discuss the qualities of good managers and what they can do to set up their employees for success.  In the second article, we will talk about what managers can do keep employees engaged.

Good managers
All managers have different ways of leading their teams, but I have observed these common traits in successful dairy managers:

  • They trust their employees and give them room to make decisions.
  • When mistakes happen, they ask “How did I not effectively train this employee?” rather than “Why didn’t that employee do it right?”
  • They honor the fact all people are different.
  • They know employees are more likely to do their best when they feel managers respect and appreciate them.
  • They foster a strong team atmosphere.Without this team atmosphere, individuals will take on projects with hopes of being recognized and advancing past co-workers in a pecking order.  This often evolves into a situation of backstabbing and loss of trust.

Think about a successful business you frequently visit.  What makes it successful and why do you keep coming back?

For me, I like to think of my favorite chain of convenience stores where I often stop for gas and morning coffee.  I keep coming back to it because the stores are always clean, the people are friendly, and the same products are stocked in similar spots in all the stores.

This company is successful because the employees thoroughly understand what they are supposed to do, they are given regular feedback to increase efficiency, and, over time, they are also given freedom to make decisions that will impact profitability.

Good management starts at hiring
To get to this point of high performance, you must first hire the right employees.  Hiring employees that want to do well in their job roles is critical to promoting a farm’s culture and achieving its goals.  Unfortunately, in the dairy industry, we are seeing a smaller pool of candidates to fill positions and farms now need to compete with their neighbors to attract good employees.

One of the best ways to attract quality employees is with clearly defined job descriptions.  This eliminates confusion and stress because employees will know what they are expected to do and how they will be evaluated.

Clear expectations are also good to measure success on both sides of the labor equation.  They help evaluate if expectations are reasonable and if labor can realistically complete all responsibilities.

As things change on the farm and as employees grow into their roles, job descriptions will change too.  Sit down once a year and update the description based on changes on the farm.

Once you have employees in place, your next responsibility is to keep them engaged.  Stay tuned for Part 2 of this article series when we tackle that topic.

This article was originally written for the October 1, 2017 issue of Progressive DairymanClick here for the full article.

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.

Category: Business and economics
Dairy Performance
Employee management