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Would You Work for You?

November 13, 2013
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"Dairy producers can create opportunity for success by giving employees greater responsibility on the farm," says Chuck Schwartau.  
 
 

Labor management expert Chuck Schwartau shares how dairy managers can make the most of their strengths and weaknesses to best manage employees.

Hiring labor increases your dairy’s operational efficiency and the likelihood of getting tasks done on time. It makes more efficient use of capital and overhead, increases production for profit and offers more opportunities for growth. Moreover, having employees gives you more time for marketing, pricing and financial activities.
 
But are you making the most of your personal strengths and correcting your weaknesses in managing your labor force?
 
University of Minnesota Extension educator and professor Chuck Schwartau took an audience through an employer self-assessment Wednesday at the Elite Producer Business Conference. He asked dairy producers to think about the following areas:
ChuckSchwartau photo
Chuck Schwartau
 
  • Can you teach? Teaching takes several forms, Schwartau said. Sometimes you’ll be in a classroom setting, other times you’ll be demonstrating, and sometimes it’s purely by example. "Don’t discount the impact of the way you carry yourself and perform your work on the farm," he said. "Others observe and see your example as one to emulate." Schwartau also encouraged producers to take advantage of experienced employees as teachers.
  • Do you have patience? Sometimes you’ll have to repeat instructions and demonstrations several times before an employee masters the task. It doesn’t mean that the person who needs those repeats is a poor employee. He or she may be an excellent employee, but one who learns in a different way.
  • Are you a good listener? "Listening is a skill that needs to be honed," Schwartau said. It can be hard to be quiet and give time for others to speak, to focus on them and process what they are saying. There is nothing that says you must respond immediately to comments and questions from others. "It’s often advisable to hesitate," he added. "You may keep from saying something you regret later, or you may express yourself more clearly."
  • Do you trust your employees? If you show your employees you trust them to do the task the way you want, and you have prepared them for the work, you stand a great chance for growth and loyalty from your employees.
  • Do you have any biases that may get in the way? "Part of dealing with bias is simply recognizing we all have biases and watching that we don’t let them get in the way of how we treat our employees and their relationships on the farm," Schwartau said. Watch and listen to employees as well to be sure they aren’t creating a hostile workplace.
  • Are you respected by others? If you show that respect to your employees, it will be returned. Respect them for the significant contributions they make to success of your farm. "Respect that they have family obligations just like you – school conferences, kids’ ball games, church activities, occasional need for personal business," said Schwartau. "Most employees want to do a good job for you, so if you give them the opportunity, recognize them for it and treat them with the respect you’d like to have."
  • Are you a pessimist or an optimist? Like respect, your attitude toward life in general will probably be reflected back by your employees.
  • Can you delegate to others? "A real leader in any business is the one who can delegate tasks to others," Schwartau said. "This isn’t a sign of laziness – it’s a sign of faith and preparation."
  • Are you consistent? If you’re hot and cold from one day to the next, or if you require something one way today and another way tomorrow, your relationship with your employees will suffer.
 
"Dairy producers can create opportunity for success by giving employees greater responsibility on the farm, providing training for improvement and giving adequate rope to be responsible but not enough to hang themselves," said Schwartau.
 
He urged producers to design jobs so employees understand the significance of their effort to the farm. "Design jobs to have responsibility, challenge, freedom and opportunities for creativity," Schwartau said.
 
He also encouraged producers to find a way to provide feedback and evaluation so employees know how they’re doing.
 
See Schwartau’s presentation here. Find additional resources here and here.

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