Dairy alliance program helps bring employee management to forefront

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – “What they teach in business school really works on the farm!”
That’s the realization Joel Stauring, an agricultural finance specialist with Dehm Associates of Geneseo, N.Y., came to when he attended a human resource management program, called People in Agriculture, created by Penn State Dairy Alliance in partnership with Cornell University Cooperative Extension.
“Business and agribusiness schools talk about creating a vision and communicating it to every member of the organization, but too frequently advisers like myself never see it implemented.
“On the farms that do, they see the results long term – effective employees that are satisfied with their work.”
New sites. People in Agriculture was recently launched at three sites in the Northeast – Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and New York – and drew 60 participants who have the potential to influence thousands of clients.
The series was created to provide educators, consultants, state employees, veterinarians and other advisers in all fields of agriculture the professional development opportunity they need to put some human resources tools in their toolbox, explained series creator Rich Stup, director of Penn State Dairy Alliance.
“Agricultural producers need information about human resource management, but many educators and advisers don’t feel comfortable addressing human resource management issues,” said Stup.
Goal. “The aim of People in Agriculture is to show advisers how they can help their producers better manage their employees.”
By training the trainers, Penn State and Cornell have the potential to reach hundreds of agricultural producers and influence thousands of employees.
“Producers regularly turn to their consultants and advisers to solve production problems, but those problems often have a human cause.
“By helping advisers deal effectively with people problems in farms, we can have a lasting and positive impact with producers and employees throughout the agriculture,” observed Stup.
Each two-day workshop featured a day-long seminar followed by a half-day tour of a production operation that demonstrates best practices in human resource management.
Strategies. Participants learned new strategies to help clients: plan for business growth; develop managers from within; address problems that emerge from poorly organized businesses; motivate workers; manage employee performance; explore current immigration issues; and help people and organizations to change.
Although the topics were diverse, each led participants to the same realization: managing employees better pays big dividends for their clients.
“Managing employees positively and properly can make a big difference in their performance and the success of the dairy.
“People capital and performance are important investments that a dairy needs to care for and develop,” noted program participant Andrew Terrell, account executive with MidAtlantic Farm Credit in Lancaster, Pa.
Terrell said he found concepts such as how to structure an organizational chart complete with job descriptions that spell out responsibilities and accountabilities, among the most valuable strategies he learned at the program.
Ongoing learning. In coming months, workshop participants will acquire even more tools as they take part in discussion groups via conference calls and Web-based learning.
According to Stup, the series’ three-step learning process combining a workshop with tour and discussion groups enables advisers to acquire new skills, see them in action on-farm, and then build on their knowledge through future support sessions.

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