Reassure Worried Workers How to be an effective personnel coach

May 15, 2009 07:00 PM

Unless your employees are living under a rock or down a rabbit hole, they are probably worried about the effects of the global recession and low milk prices. They may be wondering about job security.

Your role as business owner in these times of unprecedented uncertainty is to help reduce workers' stress, which leads to increased productivity and morale, says Bob Milligan, a consultant with Dairy Strategies LLC, in Lauderdale, Minn. Here's how:

Reassure them, to the extent possible given your financial situation, that their jobs are secure and that they are valued and valuable members of your farm.

"Within reason,” says Mary Kelly, co-owner of a 560-cow farm in Rensselaer Falls, N.Y., "my husband and I are open with our employees about how the business is doing.”

In a casual way, Kelly shares her fears with workers about these uncertain times and the numerous things in the industry that are out of her control. "I tell them we do the best we can and let the rest go.”

"Chalk the field.” Milligan uses this phrase to describe how you can be clear about what's expected of each worker, both the "what” and the "why.” This includes behaviors (timeliness, attitudes and unacceptable actions such as striking an animal) and performance (job tasks, procedures, quality assurance tools and goals).

Provide feedback. Research indicates most employees lack a clear picture of the quality of their performance and cannot answer the question "Am I succeeding?”

Farm managers record and analyze the performance of livestock, crops and other production enterprises—why not do the same with the workforce? Then, be sure to take one more step: "Communicate back to them how they are doing and how they can improve,” Milligan says. Practice the delivery of positive feedback, redirection and negative feedback.

Communicate regularly. Talk with your personnel; ask them how they're doing. "Find out what is going great and what could be going better,” Milligan says.

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