There are labor shortages everywhere we look these days, and the dairy industry is no different. It seems like finding qualified people that fit into your job descriptions are more difficult. This is why it is important to spend time training and retraining your employees. Not only will this help you to one, fill your positions but also ensure that every employee is doing what is expected of the role they are filling.
Why Train New Employees?
All new employees need training, this way you can evaluate their performance and see if expectations are met or where improvements can be made. Training should be designed to help the employee understand why it is important to do tasks in a certain way, this way they will have a better understanding of the overall operation of the farm and take better care of the animals. Some of the new employees may not have had any experience in working on a farm, some may have experience but have learned to do things differently, or you may even have employees that speak a different language. By training all new employees, using the same format each time (preferably in their spoken language), you can effectively teach everyone to do each task, the same way, that way the care that is given to the animals is the same across the board, no matter who is giving it or what shift they are on.
Why Retrain Current Employees?
You also need to take the time and invest in retraining employees that have been with you for a while. I know it sounds crazy to retrain an employee that knows what they are doing, however, over time, an employee can begin to take shortcuts or develop bad habits. Retraining fills the gaps in their skills and helps them to move into more key roles on your farm. It helps with employee retention and satisfaction. Retraining is also necessary as the technology on the farm, especially in the maternity area gets more advanced. Lots of employees can be resistant when it comes to changes in new technology, techniques, and tools. Technology and improved tools can make their work easier but also require a learning curve when learning the new features and techniques and that can be a scary thing for someone.
15 Training Tips:
- Clearly communicate your expectations, for example, use an interpreter if the employee doesn’t speak your language.
- Check-in regularly with each employee to see if they have any questions or concerns.
- Treat employees with respect, do not talk down or belittle your employees. Employees who feel respected will also respect you and your decisions in return.
- Have a clear list of daily duties and make sure that they know how to effectively perform each task.
- Periodically observe to ensure that your protocols are being maintained, that bad habits are not forming, and that skills are not deteriorating.
- Be patient! It takes time to learn new skills and not everyone learns at the same pace or in the same way.
- Be consistent, make sure that your procedures are repeatable.
- Explain the reasons why you want things done in a certain way. If the employee knows why it needs to be done this way, they will less likely take shortcuts in that area.
- Create a training system that is organized, has defined objectives, and can be repeated over and over with each new employee. Evaluate and revise the training plan as needed.
- Designate a specific “trainer/mentor”-this person is the one that will train and retrain all employees and be the person that they can go to when they have questions.
- Have your protocols written down and kept in a central location, so they can be referenced at any time by any employee.
- Document employee training and at minimum retraining yearly or as often as you see fit.
- Retraining is necessary, especially as newer technology and products enter the market.
- Work with your vet to help you with any protocols that you see need improving to maintain humane treatment of the animals and keep your employees safe.
- Maternity Care Employees should receive training in several areas including; calf care, nutrition, feeding techniques (i.e. bottle/nipple feeding and tube feeding) transport, and handling of dams and calves.
Investing the time, energy, and money in training new employees and retraining current employees is well spent. It will mean that you will have more skilled, happier employees that you can be confident in to do their tasks efficiently and effectively without constant supervision. Also, knowledgeable employees will reduce the risk of injury to the newborn calves in their care, which in turn will make your farm more profitable in the end.