Ask the Expert: How Do I Motivate Frozen Employees? – Bob Hagenow, Vita Plus

Posted on February 28, 2014 in Starting Strong - Calf Care
By Bob Hagenow, Vita Plus sales manager and dairy consultant

Q:  This winter has been very hard on my calf team.  Working in the cold temperatures and struggling with equipment has everyone lagging.  How can I help motivate my employees to charge through to warmer temperatures?

A:  Baby, it’s cold outside!

First, let’s remember that we can’t motivate anybody to do anything.  As managers and leaders, what we can do is create the environment for people to motivate themselves.  That said, here are some of the things I’ve seen to help create that positive environment in frigid temperatures:

  • Work alongside employees on all jobs.
  • Before your team arrives on the job, plow snow in bunkers and calf hutches.
  • Have extra help available to perform jobs.
  • Plug in engines and start tractors beforehand so employees are entering warm cabs at the beginning of a shift.
  • Keep driveways and walkways safe for walking and relatively ice-free.  (One farm recently ran the bulldozer over the entire farmyard to break up the glare ice.)
  • Designate areas to warm calf bottles and thaw pails.
  • Have straw bedding for hutches ready to go on wagons or ATVs.
  • Provide warming areas for your employees to recover from the cold throughout the day.
  • Serve hot chocolate or coffee.
  • Provide cots or places to sleep on shifts that need to carry over or when employees can’t get home due to a snow event.
  • Provide extra warm gloves when employees’ gloves get wet.
  • Provide blankets and “survival kits” for employees’ vehicles.
  • Lead by a can-do, positive and empathic attitude.
  • Proactively prepare for bad weather events:
    • Feed extra feed to groups.
    • Deface more feed ahead of time.
    • Cut back plastic in more moderate weather.
    • Fix any water issues in more moderate weather.
    • Get supplies of salt or sand on hand.
    • Clean alleys and manure areas ahead of time where possible.
    • Get in sand or bedding ahead of time.
    • Move up hutch panelings before a snow event.
    • Block hutch openings before snow event.

It is not easy to navigate and work in cold and snowy winter weather.  Everything tends to take more time and is made more difficult due to many layers of clothes and gloves.  But with some good pre-planning and creative, common sense measures to help employees stay safe and warm, your dairy farm can survive – and even thrive – in cold weather.

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Category: Employee management
Starting Strong - Calf Care