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Make Some Time for Employee Management

Libby Eiholzer, Bilingual Dairy
Northwest New York Dairy, Livestock & Field Crops

Last Modified: June 14, 2013

For the most part, area dairy farms have chopped all their corn and packed all of their feed bunks. The field work is almost finished, and hopefully so are some of the tasks on the to-do list. The winter season offers dairy managers extra time to devote to other tasks such as herd health, calf care and reproduction performance. There is one task that should be on that list: employee management, especially with Hispanic employees. This task doesn't usually rate very high on the list, if it makes the list at all, but can make a great difference in employee morale, employee retention, farm efficiency and profitability. Two methods effective methods of employee management are to hold regular staff meetings and to offer individual employee evaluations.

Staff Meetings
A regular staff meeting is a great way to have a general, open forum to discuss farm issues such as overall employee performance, jobs to be done, upcoming events, scheduling, etc. Itís also a great way to bring together the entire team of employees that make the farm work. Different shifts of employees may rarely get the chance to meet each other, so the staff meeting can help get everyone on the same page and build a sense of teamwork- which is crucial to implementing a consistent milking routine. Furthermore, discussions are likely to occur in these staff meetings and questions are likely to be asked. Listen to what comes out of the discussion and be receptive to feedback from the employees. This can easily be done with the help of a bilingual person that can facilitate the meeting, even a bilingual employee of the farm could help. The farm manager should create the agenda which should be organized and planned. The meeting can be integrated with English-speaking employees, or separate meetings can be held. Remember: staff meetings should address general farm issues. Refrain from reprimanding or praising an individual in front of the group.

Employee Evaluations
In my experience, this is the most beneficial, yet commonly ignored human resource practice on dairy farms. Individualized evaluations may seem like a lot of work, but they really donít have to be. The first step is to create a checklist, rubric or other type of form that contains the criteria on which you would like to evaluate your employees. Some of these include: punctuality, cow treatment, milking routine performance, teamwork/gets along with coworkers, etc. Donít forget to leave a section for notes, as they are very helpful for the interpreter. Evaluate your employees, one by one or shift by shift and schedule meetings that fit your time schedule. 20 minutes should be enough for each employee, so schedule about 3 per hour. They donít all have to be done on the same day; itís easier if the meetings are held periodically, rotating the employees. As mentioned earlier, it is okay to use a bilingual employee to translate staff meetings. For employee evaluations, however, a third-party translator is a must. In the meetings, use direct communication and listen to the employee (not the translator.) Try to be as fair and judicious in your remarks as possible and always offer an opportunity for the employee to respond.

Staff meetings and employee evaluations, when used properly, can have enormous impact on your operation. They do require some groundwork to be done by the farm manager, but the end result is improved communication, employee productivity and teamwork. On farms where I have helped with these meetings I have seen a stark improvement in employee attitude and morale- which may be the most valuable result. Please consider these two tools for managing employees on your farm.




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Our goal for this blog is to share with farmers and allied industry professionals, technical and applicable resources regarding all aspects of dairy farming, livestock and small farms, field crops and soils, and topics related to farm business management and precision agriculture.

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