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Labor Matters

RSS By: Dairy Today: Labor Matters, Dairy Today

Experts cover today’s key dairy labor issues and offer fool-proof techniques to optimize employee performance, sat­isfaction and longevity.

First Day at the Job

Jan 30, 2012

The top 10 things to have ready for your employee’s orientation day at your dairy.

Soriano photo 1 12By Felix Soriano, MS, PAS
APN Consulting, LLC
The orientation program is one of the most neglected functions in most dairy operations. Most of the time, new employees are left to gain knowledge and skills on the go without access to proper formal orientation and training. This results most of the time in unproductive employees that don’t care much about the dairy and end up leaving within the first year.
Always remember that first impressions are crucial. Just as you are forming an impression about your new employee, he or she is doing the same of you and your dairy. This is why it’s so important that, during the first days of work, managers and owners take the necessary time to work and orient the new employee to their new job and the dairy. 
Develop an effective orientation program and you will be able to:
1.       Create a positive attitude and job satisfaction among your new employees;
2.       Better align what people do to what you expect them to do;
3.       Reduce labor turn over;
4.       Reduce start up cost by reducing costly accidents or mistakes;
5.       Save time for you and your managers.
This is why it’s so important to spend time planning out the first days of work before the new employee arrives.
The top 10 things that you will need to have ready for the orientation day are:
1.     A mission statement, vision, and history of your dairy – This will be part of the introduction to the dairy and will help create a sense of belonging to the new employee. He/she will value your operation more!
2.     Job specifications and description – Very important to be able to better orient and train the new employee on what needs to be done and what it takes to get it done.
3.     Employee handbook – Every dairy operation needs to have a simple yet complete employee handbook with all the necessary information for people who work at the dairy. (For more information about preparing an employee handbook, contact me at
4.     Standard operating procedures (SOP) – Every employee needs to do the job the same way. SOPs will help during the training process and will promote job consistency among employees.
5.     Organizational chart – The new employee needs to know who will they be reporting to, who the managers are, who’s in charge of what, and what the chain of command looks like.
6.     Layout of the facilities and barns – Very useful during the orientation. Every new employee should have one.
7.     Housing accommodations should be ready – Have their room ready and clean. Make sure you also have house rules in place and that these are included in the employee handbook. What are the expenses covered by the farm? Which are the ones they need to cover themselves?
8.     Have a trainer/buddy assigned – This person will not only be your trainer but also your ambassador of the dairy. Define who’s the right candidate for this job and train him or her. Use outside consultants to help you train your trainer if necessary. Define step by step and day by day what your trainer needs to do and accomplish with the new employee. Train the trainer!
9.     A formal training program of proper cow handling techniques – No matter how much experience the new employee has, every new employee needs to go through a basic training on cow handling techniques.
10. Training on safety – Every new employee needs to go through basic training on safety. That includes safety when being around animals, the forage bunk, equipment, using chemicals and manure pits/lagoons.
Finally, hire an interpreter if your trainer or buddy cannot do the translation when you hire Spanish-speaking employees. Both the orientation and training program of new employees need to be done in the native language of the worker.
So remember, the first days on the job can set the tone for an employee’s experience at your dairy. Usually, new employees will be more receptive and eager to learn during the first days at the new job, so make sure that you and your supervisors do their best to make these first days a great experience for them.
Felix Soriano, president and founder of APN Consulting, has more than 10 years of experience working with dairy producers and developing tools and programs to improve dairy performance and profitability. He has a Master of Science degree from Virginia Tech and received an Agricultural Labor Management Certificate from the University of California. Born and raised in Argentina, Soriano can relate and communicate very well with Hispanic employees to help bridge the communication and cultural gap between workers and managers. While working as a manager for a feed additive company, Soriano developed his leadership and supervisory skills. Now based in Pennsylvania, Soriano can be reached at 215-738-9130 or or Visit his website at
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