No matter how big or small your dairy is, you and your labor team can benefit from these tried-and-true techniques.
By Travis Thayer, Diamond V
My primary job role with Diamond V is as Dairy Technical Trainer. My ability to speak Spanish and my enjoyment in working with people give me the opportunity to train dairy employees (many of whom speak Spanish as their primary language), in various protocols around the dairy, such as feeding of cows and calves, milking, or maternity area management.
Whether Hispanic or any other ethnicity, employees want to feel like they are doing their jobs well and are valued. As employers or managers, you can create an environment that sets employees up for success. Successful and contented employees mean successful dairies. Through the course of training employees over the years, I have learned a lot from them myself.
Here are just a few things I have learned to help maximize employee success.
1. Set clear expectations for the job you want the employee to do. Create a job description that describes what tasks you want him or her to perform, and review it one on one with them before you send them out to do the job. For Spanish speaking employees with limited understanding of English, translate the job description and utilize someone fluent in Spanish to review it with them. Emphasize the key measures of success, and set up a schedule (such as every three to six months) to review their performance with them and give them feedback.
2. Provide adequate training for the job, especially for complicated, protocol-driven tasks such as milking, feed delivery, maternity, etc. Make sure that you explain the “why” behind the steps you ask an employee to perform, and the order in which you want them performed. For example, explain to a new milker how the milk letdown reflex works and why you need the appropriate lag time between teat stimulation and machine attachment. It is amazing and satisfying to see the difference in an employee’s performance after they have learned the “why” behind the steps you have asked them to do.
Much of the work we ask employees to do is time sensitive, meaning we want them to do it fast. If we don’t give them the info they need to understand why we are asking them to do things a certain way, they will find a “more efficient” (faster) way to do things out of an honest desire to do the best job they can. The vast majority of employees take tremendous pride in their jobs, and if you provide them with the information they need to do their jobs well, you will be amazed with the results.
Also, by providing training, you are sending employees a clear message that you value them and their contribution to the dairy, and that you are willing to invest time and resources into their development. This almost always results in improved employee performance. Many vendors or manufacturers offer employee training in many key areas of the dairy, and offer valuable training resources for their customers.
3. Make sure they have all the tools they need to do their jobs. Many times we assume employees have all the equipment they need to get their job done. Like many of us, they may previously have had to “make do” with less than adequate supplies or materials they need to do their job, and they may just assume that this is what is expected of them at this one. Giving them the right tools to do the job increases their chances of success (and yours).
4. Seek feedback from employees on how the job is going, and ask them if there are any barriers to doing their jobs effectively. One benefit of the training I do on dairies is open a more effective line of communication between manager and employee. Sometimes during this process, problems are revealed that management was not even aware of. Correction of these issues often provides just as much value as the training itself. Be approachable and open to employee feedback. If employees feel intimidated to come to you with a problem, you may never know there is one, and this can cost you big time.
Put effort into employee development, and you will reap the rewards many times over!
After obtaining a B.S. in Microbiology and a DVM Degree at UC Davis, Dr. Thayer practiced dairy production medicine in California’s Central Valley. He joined Diamond V in 2011 as Dairy Technical Trainer. Contact him at 510-910-3126 or firstname.lastname@example.org.