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Effective Management of Farm Employees


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This material was presented for DAIReXNET on Oct. 6, 2014. To watch the full webinar, please visit

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Effective Management of Farm Employees

  1. 1. Effective Management of Farm Employees Phil Durst Stan Moore MSU Extension Sr. Educators
  2. 2. Effective Management of Farm Employees • Probably the greatest need on growing operations • Impacts: - Cattle health - Cattle well-being - Feed efficiency - Product quality And more
  3. 3. Managing Dairy Employees Project: • Initiated project in 2012 • To use the input of a farm’s employees to improve employee management on that farm • Developed a survey, employees on project farms receive a copy and call interviewer • Report and recommendations developed based on the transcripts sent by interviewer • Sit down with owners & managers to review
  4. 4. Managing Dairy Employees Project: • Purpose is to help the owners & managers on project farms to improve their people management. • And to use the knowledge gained to help on other farms
  5. 5. Managing Dairy Employees Project: • Working with a partner, Felix Soriano of APN Consulting, Inc. on east coast • To date, 14 farms from 4 states have been enrolled in the project with a total of 230 employees • Interviews conducted with 174 employees (76%) by the same interviewer • Each farm is different, but there are common themes that arise
  6. 6. Managing Dairy Employees Project: Farms vary widely in employee turnover rate and employee engagement Management makes the difference
  7. 7. Employee Turnover: • Calculated as the number of hires in a year as a percentage of the number of positions. • Why that matters: - Develop knowledge and skills - Develop teamwork and consistency - Disruption and costs of turnover - Impact on morale • Range among farms: single digit to triple digits
  8. 8. Employee Engagement: • Measured indirectly: “How often do you come up with ideas to improve the operation?” • We categorized responses as either: - Frequently - Occasionally - I just do what they tell me/ I have ideas, but I don’t share • Calculated percentage in latter category
  9. 9. Employee Engagement: • Why that matters: - mind engaged, they think about what they do - seeking the benefit of the business - reveals the attitude of managers toward employees • Range among farms: 8% to 56% disengaged
  10. 10. Management makes a difference • Some producers say “If I can just hire the right people . .” • You need to hire well, but you need to develop those you hire.
  11. 11. Developing employees: 1. Focus employees on achieving performance standards • Owners/managers often have difficulty in setting goals • That leaves employees without good direction • Set and communicate standards (KPI’s) • Each employee should have KPI’s they work toward
  12. 12. Developing employees: 2. Provide opportunities to learn • Employers underestimate the desire of employees to learn • Learning needs to be progressive • Learning needs to teach the “why” • Value the portion of the employee above the shoulders • Thinking employees are better
  13. 13. Developing employees: 3. Provide feedback regularly to employees • KPI’s provide a basis for feedback • It should be specific and be individual as well as for the team • Positive, Negative or Re-directive • Can’t neglect the positive • Create opportunities (i.e., every paycheck)
  14. 14. Developing employees: 4. Facilitate and encourage better teamwork • Employees sometimes leave other employees • Create reporting/communication opportunities between shifts • Don’t allow one shift to blame the next • Emphasize the need to support one another • One team; Team Farm
  15. 15. Developing employees: 5. Give responsibility and authority to employees • Encourage employee ideas and listen to them • Allow them to recommend or make decisions • Allow them to be part of the solution
  16. 16. Language and cultural barriers • Lack of language skills can isolate employees • Language matters – even if we can get by with cursory communication is takes deeper communication to develop employees • Language and culture can be as much a barrier between employees as between management and employees
  17. 17. Language and cultural barriers Options for overcoming barriers: • Language and/or literacy lessons for both sides • Outside interpreter scheduled on a regular basis • Technology (ie: Google Translate) • Facilitate human living
  18. 18. Language and cultural barriers Just because you speak the same language doesn’t mean that you are communicating • Literacy training • Tell them, Show them, Tell me, Show me
  19. 19. Wrap – up • Employee management matters • It is a skill to be developed • Management can increase engagement and decrease employee turnover • Those are building blocks of a better business.
  20. 20. Questions?
  21. 21. Thank you! Phil Durst MSU Extension 989-387-5346 Stan Moore MSU Extension 231-350-0400