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Labor Matters

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

Get Your New Employees “On Board”

Mar 30, 2012

Onboarding is the complete integration or immersion of new employees to your operation. Properly onboarding new employees takes some extra time, but the time commitment will be worth it.

buttars nicolasBy Nicolas Buttars, labor management specialist, Pfizer Animal Health
Imagine you are looking for a job. A friend of yours works on a nearby dairy and tells you he heard they are hiring. You go to the dairy and meet the owner. He says they are looking for some additional help in the milking parlor. Then he asks if you can start that night. Not wanting to miss out on a job, you agree and are instructed to go to the milking parlor. The owner points you in the direction of the parlor and tells you that the milking crew will show you what to do. Just like that, you are off to your first shift.
If this happened to you, how would you feel? Would you feel confident about the management at the dairy you are now working at? Would you feel prepared and want to come back the next day? Would you feel confident in the job you are doing?
This scenario is a common one playing out on dairies across the country. And this type of “hiring and training” is not good for the new employee, the existing employees or the owner of the dairy. Successful operations and employees need a formal, structured onboarding process.
Onboarding is the complete integration or immersion of new employees to your operation. Properly onboarding new employees does take some extra time, but the time commitment will be worth it as there are many benefits. Research has shown that offering a complete training will help your employees and your bottom line.

• Properly trained employees will become more productive earlier in their term of employment.
• Complete training reduces the risks of costly mistakes and accidents.
• Employees who have proper training are more committed and engaged in their work.
• Your dairy will see a lower employee turnover rate which saves you money. The American Management Association states employee turnover can cost an operation 1.5 to 2 times the person’s annual salary. For an employee making $25,000 per year, that’s a loss of up to $50,000.
Onboarding starts when the employee first comes in contact with the dairy and lasts about the first 60 to 90 days of employment. It includes not just the orientation and training process but also the hiring process.
Here are some things to consider when evaluating how your dairy onboards employees:
• Interviewing: Develop and train managers to ask good questions of potential employees, more than just “When can you start?” Learning a little bit about people and their previous experience can help you determine whether they will be good team members of your operation and into what role they might best fit.
• Hiring and orientation: Once you’ve determined who you are going to hire, it is important to make them feel welcomed and part of the team and assimilate the culture right from the start. You also need to make sure the new hires understand the procedures on your dairy. Take the time to discuss things that are important to the success of your operation and what role they play in it instead of just handing new people a stack of standard operating procedures to read on their own time.
• Job training: The way you train employees is crucial to their success in your operation. The responsibility of training new hires should not be left to chance but well prepared. Whoever is conducting the training needs to not only explain the tasks or processes but work through it with the new hires. This is also a great time to go back to the basics of the job. For example, if you have hired a new milker, it is a good idea to review how a cow produces milk so the new employee understands why certain tasks, like using a post dip, are important steps in the milking process.
• Reviewing: Once the initial training is complete and the new employees are put in position to do the work, checking regularly in to see how they are doing will help keep them engaged in their job. These formal and informal reviews give employees an opportunity to correct any mistakes they might be making and/or give them positive reinforcement to keep up the good work as well as share with management what is working well and what isn’t.
• Setting milestones: Whether worked in conjunction with reviews or as separate occasions, setting milestones for new employees will give them motivation to continue the good work. You can incorporate incentives like a salary scale or other benefits into milestones, such as working a set total number of days or shifts with no absences. And once an employee reaches one milestone, work with him or her to set the next.
Not only is it important to do all of these things when hiring a new employee, but it is also important to designate these responsibilities to someone on your dairy. Having an existing employee be responsible for training new employees is the key to having a consistent and complete onboarding process.
Not sure how to get an employee onboarding process started on your dairy? There are certified consultants who can help. One such group is PeopleFirst™, which was created after hearing about and seeing challenges from customers who provide work for a large number of employees. Visit to learn more about what PeopleFirst can bring to your dairy.
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