Employee evaluation time, host a ‘stay’ meeting

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snowy farm

In many businesses and organizations, the end of the year signals an annual employee evaluation or review.

Why should a dairy farm manager who oversees employees, whether they are family or non-family, consider an end of year evaluation? What does an end-of-year evaluation involve?

Recently I have been reviewing some monthly newsletter articles by Bob Milligan, senior consultant with Dairy Strategies LLC, dealing with the topic of employee evaluation and management.

One of the statements Milligan makes is that most managers, supervisors and employees alike all dread the annual performance evaluation.

There is research that says these annual reviews have little value and can actually be counterproductive. All right, great news, let’s do away with annual evaluations or stop feeling guilty for not doing them!

Well, hold on, not so fast.

There actually is value in some kind of end of year meeting with employees, but the content is different from a performance evaluation.

Milligan terms this end of year meeting with the employee a “Stay” meeting.

An end-of-the-year stay meeting involves sitting down with the employee, and again this can be both non-family and family, and discussing their future with the farm.

A stay meeting is all about the employee “staying put” and continuing to contribute to the farm. The tone of this meeting is positive and forward-looking.

The meeting should discuss the employee interests, particularly as they relate to what job responsibilities they want to increase or grow into. Discuss the knowledge and skills needed to add these new job responsibilities or to help the employee do their current job better.

Develop a learning plan for that employee to help them reach that goal.

This could include shadowing another employee, attending an educational workshop, obtaining a certification, taking advantage of some online learning, reading articles/books, supervised practice with a tool, implement, procedure or other options.

The key to making this end of year stay meeting successful is that this is not the first and last meeting held with that employee during the year.

This stay meeting builds upon a systematic commitment by the farm manager or supervisor to improved employee performance and communication.

Your goal as the farm manager/supervisor is to build a more motivated and engaged employee, which results in better productivity. Gleaning from some of Milligan’s workforce performance advice, this involves providing the following:

  Quality positive feedback: Research shows that employees who have received recognition and praise within the last seven days show increased performance, have higher customer satisfaction scores, better safety records and are more engaged at work.

This positive feedback needs to be specific. Not just “good job in the milking parlor today” but rather something like “thank you for your attention to detail, I noticed you made sure the pre-dip always had 30 seconds of contact time before it was wiped off”. It takes work on the part of the manager to do this.

I have also heard this described as “watching to catch the employee doing something right.”

  Clarity: Be clear and consistent about job and task expectations. If an employee is unsure about what to do or how to do something this creates frustration for everyone.

  Provide training: Provide written operating procedures.

  Performance feedback: This involves regular and consistent meetings with the employee. Monthly performance meetings are most common, but some managers may prefer a weekly check-in.

At a minimum, these should be quarterly meetings. At these meetings provide feedback on performance, again be specific, outline expectations for the next period and discuss any concerns on the part of either the employee or supervisor.

  Celebrate success: Often it is too easy to focus on failures or goals not achieved. Remember to look for and celebrate the individual successes (finished that certificate program or training procedure), team successes and farm successes.

Milligan says that celebrations do not need to be elaborate but they must be genuine and timely.

  Career orientation: Employee retention is important for farm growth and progress. Provide reasons for the employee to stay with the farm and see employment on the farm as a career path.

Part of this is creating compensation plans, part is providing advancement and growth opportunities and part is employee engagement in and commitment to the farm’s vision and values.

Developing and practicing a year-round employee management system will result in less anxiety for both the farm manager and the employee while improving farm productivity.

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