Dairy Coach: Are you looking for ‘lifers’?
By Tom Wall
You’re already thinking long term when it comes to the rest your dairy operation. Think long term when it comes to your employees, too.
When it comes to your dairy’s team, are you the type of a manager who sees your employees as easy-to-replace, second-rate team members? Or, do you see your people as a valuable priority, helping you keep your cows healthy and productive? In other words, do you think of your people as a short-term or a long-term investment?
Sure, every one of us is replaceable. But it’s your people, not your cows, that make or break your dairy business. So if you agree with that statement, what are you currently doing to help make your people a true asset at your dairy?
Have you just accepted that you’ll always have unmotivated employees and high employee turnover? Or, are you truly focused on developing career dairy professionals who want to be dairy industry “lifers”?
Yes, your answer matters. You see, when you have the same employees, day after day, year after year, the quality of their work goes up and your headaches go down. That means less employee turnover, less new-hire training, and hopefully, less costly mistakes.
Think long term
Ultimately, that’s your goal: to develop “career” dairy people. But in order to create lifers for your dairy, you need to have the right mindset. When it comes to your people, you have to think long term. If you plan to have your cows around for awhile, you’re going to want to have your employees around for awhile, too.
So where do you start? If you intend to build a team of “lifers,” you need to manage your people so they actually want to stick around and work for you. Good employees are looking for good employers, and good employers are looking for good employees. The goal is simple: You want your dairy to be a good place for good people to work.
Ten years ago, it was rare to find employees who stayed at the same dairy for more than six months or a year. Back then, it almost seemed like working at a dairy farm was considered seasonal work.
That’s no longer the case. We utilize systems like job descriptions and employee evaluations that connect performance with pay. Throw in an employee manual, and everyone knows what to expect from day one. These systems work in both directions – while they clarify what you expect from your employees, they also communicate what your employees can expect from you. And when word gets out that your dairy has a lot to offer, people who sincerely want to work at one place for a long time will apply to work with you.
Pretty soon, your dairy will become more like the businesses in town. The mill, the bank and the cheese factory all have 5-, 10- and 20-year employees. So why can’t your dairy? The truth is most dairy workers have already made up their mind – they like working with cows. People who want to work at a dairy are going to work at a dairy. And if they’re not milking your cows, they’re going to milk someone else’s.
You’re already thinking long-term when it comes to the rest your dairy operation. Think long-term when it comes to your employees. If you create an environment where dedicated, hard-working people see they can have a bright future working at your dairy, they’ll be happy to stay, and you’ll be happy they do. p
• Dairy CoachTM Tom Wall helps people reach their potential, training employees and coaching dairy managers on how to implement simple systems that work. For more coaching tips, check out www.dairycoach.com.