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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.

Stop Putting Out the Same Fires

Apr 24, 2014

Get to the root of recurring dairy problems, employee issues and your own management style.

Jorge Estrada

By Jorge Estrada, Zoetis PeopleFirst™ consultant

Have you ever been challenged by the same problem over and over again? Perhaps you have a somatic cell count issue that keeps popping up. You try to solve it by retraining milkers on proper parlor procedures. Maybe you even try to put an incentive in place. But six months later, the same problem happens again.

This happens because this reactive management style will only help you solve problems as they happen. As a result, you’ll always feel one step behind. Problems will continue to surface. To break the cycle of putting out fires, you need to get to the root of issues on your dairy. Taking a strategic, proactive approach can help you prevent and control these challenges.

To help you understand whether your management is more reactive than it should be, I suggest asking yourself these questions:

Who understands our company strategy?

There should be a link between a company’s goals and employee development. Part of managing people strategically is making sure leaders of the dairy have objectives and strategies, then helping employees understand how work on the dairy should align with achieving those objectives. Your workers know they need to make milk and do so efficiently. But does everyone know the goals for overall growth? Clarify these objectives.

Am I hiring the right people?

Managers need to know the culture and behaviors of the operation and recruit and hire quality employees who fit. I recommend a good onboarding program to bring employees up to speed and engage them in the operation’s environment. If you hire strong employees and get to know them, you’ll know how to best use their talents and place them in positions so they and the dairy are successful.

How are mangers learning their roles?

Leadership is defined by people who get things accomplished through others. Developing leaders is an important component of people management. People need to know themselves and how to properly manage processes before they can lead others. Leaders also need skills to manage change, which is a constant in our business.

Am I giving appropriate feedback?

Communication helps people know and understand their job. Communication can be formal and informal and has many components. One important component is feedback, which is key for strategic management. It’s not limited to, say, giving feedback to someone who handled a procedure incorrectly yesterday or who performed a task really well last month. When it comes to people development, feedback should be ongoing and forward-looking.

Do I know whether we’re reaching our goals?

Let’s say you have procedures in place to produce results. How do you measure whether you are reaching your goals? Look at the numbers. I’ve seen some operations where there are no consequences for people who fail to reach goals. The numbers, targets and goals all play an important role in measuring and moving forward.

Understand these areas at your dairy to help adopt a proactive approach. When all of these strategic elements come together, employees find clarity. Clarity is important for performing tasks efficiently and correctly. It also increases the number of employees who are committed and engaged. And the more engagement you have in the company, the higher the productivity — which directly ties to profit and overall success of the operation.

Jorge Estrada is a consultant for PeopleFirst™ from Zoetis. He works with dairy producers to meet their human resources, training, development and leadership needs. PeopleFirst is the industry’s first comprehensive human capital and business management solutions program. These services were created in direct response to challenges customers expressed with managing today’s complex agricultural businesses. For more ways to help develop your employees, contact Jorge at or visit

All trademarks are the property of Zoetis Inc., its affiliates and/or its licensors. ©2014 Zoetis Inc. All rights reserved.


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