Make sure new employees know and understand the rules of your dairy. It’s been found that an employee’s eventual success is closely related to the orientation process. If the employee gets a good start, he or she is much more likely to stay at the business.
By Chuck Schwartau
Extension Educator, University of Minnesota Extension
That simple question may look like it has little to do with workforce management -- and even less with immigrant workforce, but it really does tell a tale about your farm business and your employee management.
When a new employee comes to work the first time, does he or she know the very basic information of where to park their car, put their lunch box or can change into their work clothes? These are probably the most basic items that should be part of an employee orientation program.
Orientation is not the same as training. Training is related to skills and tasks necessary to perform the expected work on the farm. Training may include using specific implements or systems like a milking parlor. Training enables the employee to function effectively as part of the farm team.
I like to think of orientation as helping that employee become part of the team. Every farm has procedures and routines that make up the culture of the farm. Some of these may be obvious, but others are more subtle and not even given conscious attention. They just happen in normal course events without much thought.
If we go back to parking the car, most of the staff drives in at the beginning of their shift and parks in about the same place they probably park every day. If this is your first day at work, how do you know where to park? You may see other cars parked somewhere so you just get in line, but what if that happens to be the area where farm visitors are asked to park as part of biosecurity, not where employees are expected to park?
Now add the factor that this employee speaks little or no English. Not only don’t they know where to park, they have trouble asking and probably don’t know who to ask. That is pretty intimidating for a new employee.
It has been found the eventual success of an employee is closely related to the orientation process in the business. If the employee gets a good start, they are much more likely to stay at the business. This can also pay off with lower employee turnover.
Orientation will demand an investment of time. The most important time is meeting the new employee the minute they arrive for their first day of work. It shows you care about them and that they are important to you and the farm. If the employee and you do not speak a common language, this is also the time to have a bilingual person with you, and maybe even turn over the orientation responsibility to the person speaking the employee’s language.
Some of that time should be devoted to introducing new employees to others on the farm and a general look at what happens on the farm. While some time will need to be devoted to their specific job, expose them to other people and tasks as well so they can see the system and get a better idea of how their job and every other job on the farm is important to the farm’s success.
Make sure new employees know and understand the rules of the farm:
· When and where are breaks taken?
· Where are restrooms?
· Where can they put their lunch when they come to work?
· Is smoking allowed, and if so, where?
· Is there a policy regarding cell phone use while working?
· When is payday?
· How is sick leave accumulated and accessed?
· How much vacation is earned and how can it be used?
· If an employee cannot make it to work, what are they expected to do?
· What does and employee do if they are hurt on the job?
· Don’t forget to have and communicate policies about harassment, discrimination and violence.
Finally, make sure if they have questions, they should be comfortable asking them and they know who they can ask. As an employer, you’d much rather have that employee ask a question than make a potentially very expensive mistake because they didn’t understand a procedure they had been told or shown.
This is not an all inclusive list of items to cover, but it is a good start. It is advisable to check back with new employees regularly in the first few days and weeks. There will be questions coming up that they may hesitant to bring to you, but may open up more if you come to them. Show them you care.
Oh yeah – don’t forget to tell them where to park their car!
Chuck Schwartau has been with the University of Minnesota Extension Service for 31 years. As part of the Extension Dairy Team, he focuses on workforce development and management, dairy business organization and risk management. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or (507) 536-6301.