Interaction with employees is vital to your operation’s success
Written by: Mario Solis Flores, Form-A-Feed Technical Services Specialist
In many farm operations, it is normal to see owners, leaders or managers get very busy with the day-to-day operations depending on the time of the year. In many circumstances, employee issues arise during the busiest times of the year or when we least expect or want them to. Dairy farms by nature have very basic tasks that need to be done daily. Then we add cropping, manure hauling, mother nature, etc. on top of the dairy’s basic tasks. As a result, as dairy operators or managers we just get too busy in our own daily work load and we elect not to interrupt our employees. We believe in them. We believe in them to get their jobs done. We don’t want to give the impression of being overbearing or micromanaging and we even go so far as to just get out of their way. Our plates our full, our heads are spinning, it’s busy with all the tasks we need to get done on a daily, weekly and even monthly basis.
As we leave our employees “alone” in 24-hour operations, we are giving them the “freedom to run.” They want to make the best choices according to the situations and challenges at hand. In many cases though, the lack of understanding may push them to make choices that are probably not in the best interest of the dairy, cows, people or whatever situation it may be. It may be as simple as us, managers and owners, thinking “that’s not what I would have done.” Has this happened to you? Think about how your employee is feeling because he had to make a decision that wasn’t correct, not only according to you but the dairy in general. Remember your employee didn’t do it on purpose, he or she was “alone.” We don’t want the employee, who at least tried, to get to the point of not wanting to do anything in fear of getting in trouble.
A good way to avoid the “alone” cases is to build a rapport with your employees. We all believe we do, but do we? Can we do more than what we already are?
Here are some ideas how to connect with your employees:
- When they are at work, make a point to go and say hello and ask how things are going.
- Find opportunities during lunch breaks to talk to them.
- Run into them when they arrive at work or before they are ready to go home.
- Schedule monthly, biweekly meetings to share ideas, updates etc.
Your employees want to ask questions, share ideas, struggles, good news and even bad news. Language can be a barrier, making it difficult to communicate, but it’s not impossible. Build that bridge and bridge that gap. You’ve got this! You can even find different ways in your daily routine to meet formally or informally. Walk around the facility and start casual conversations about work or projects people are assigned. Make it part of your leadership job to spend at least one hour of your day connecting with your employees. This does not mean one full hour, maybe it’s 15 minutes here, 5 minutes there, to total your daily hour.
Remember, sometimes as owners, leaders and managers we stay away from our employees because we believe people need to be left “alone” to do their work. Yes, they deserve to be on their own, however, they still need to have your presence. By following what was suggested above, you will no longer have the “alone” employee but the employee who works on his own with you. You will be more visible, accessible and approachable to hear and learn all the things happening that are critical for your organization’s success, as well as your own.