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

5 Prerequisites for Engaging Your Employees

Jul 12, 2012

Do you have what it takes to shape employees who are more productive, safer and more likely to stay at your dairy?

By Felix Soriano and Phil Durst

Gallup, a research based management consulting firm, defines an engaged employee as “someone who works with passion and has profound connection to the company, driving results and moving the organization forward.” In other words, engaged employees are those who show passion about their job and the dairy they work for, making them highly productive and efficient at work.

Gallup’s statistics say that highly engaged employees can improve overall performance by 78%! Furthermore, engaged employees can improve:
• Employee retention by 44%
• Labor safety by 50%
• Productivity by 50%
• Profitability by 33%

So, are your employees highly engaged or not?

If they are, good for you. If they are not, start looking at your leadership and communication skills. We all recognize that good communication is critical for effective teamwork on the farm or in any business. Not only do we recognize that, but we often say that it is a priority for us. And yet, it is still a problem area for many.

As manager, you tend to assume that others understand what you want. You think that they give the same urgency to tasks as you would. You believe that they will have the same standards for how the job gets done that you have. But, unfortunately, many times this is not the case.

You probably aren’t the only one with questions and misconceptions. Many employees don’t know much of the business of the dairy, what your goals are as an owner or how they are doing compared to your expectations. The primary reason they don’t know it is because many owners don’t do a good job sharing that information.

That’s where many owners get stuck. They recognize the importance of good communication and engaged employees, but aren’t sure what to do differently. Meanwhile, many employees seem adrift. They may not contribute much beyond doing the minimum and aren’t active participants in advancing the operation to a new level.

So what can you do to have highly engaged employees? Here are five things that you must have:
1. Strong leadership and communication
2. Well-defined job roles and organizational structure
3. Effective performance management system
4. A well-defined recruitment and orientation process for new employees
5. A good training and development program

Employee surveys and evaluations can now be now done with dairy farm employees to help assess the level of engagement of your employees.

Michigan State University Extension is initiating a project along with APN Consulting, LLC to improve communication on the farm. This project is partly supported by the North Central Center for Risk Management Education and the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Dairy producers in Michigan and eastern U.S. are invited to participate in this project. If you are interested in learning more about this, contact any of the project leaders:
• Phil Durst at 989-387-5346 or via email at durstp@msu.edu
• Stan Moore at 231-533-8818 or via email at moorest@msu.edu
• Felix Soriano at 215-738-9130 or via email at felix@apndairy.com or go to www.apndairy.com

Improvement is possible but it begins with increased knowledge. This project can help you change employee management based on understanding what your employees are thinking.

Felix Soriano
Owner, APN Consulting, LLC

Phil Durst
Sr. Michigan State University Extension Dairy Educator

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