At the recent Dairy Calf and Heifer Association annual conference in Green Bay, Wis., dairy management consultant Tom Wall outlined five key principles as part of a successful people strategy:
“If we don't have clarity, we lose teamwork; the team starts fraying,” Wall explained.
To provide clarity, put expectations in writing to reduce uncertainty and chaos, Wall noted. Provide job descriptions, protocols, SOPs, policies and rules. Employees frequently see alternative paths that are easier or cut corners and time.
“Every job has 1,000 ways to do it; but in reality there is only one right way,” he said.
Key ingredients to successful communication include being honest, sincere, detailed, specific, timely and frequent.
“Look at what people are doing,” Wall said. “If you see something, say something.”
Be positive and compliment; or provide correction. Employees who aren’t corrected think you don’t care, or that they are doing okay.
Good employees want to feel connected on a personal level.
“We're so busy that we forget to connect,” he said. “We're all people, who want to be respected and appreciated. Employees have family stresses; they want to make a living. If you care about them, they will care about you, and their job.”
When it comes to managing, Wall repeated his “raffle rule”: You have to be present to win.
“Managers get too busy to manage,” he noted. “Be present, be picky with what you expect, and be predictable. If a calf feeder isn't feeding calves properly, he isn't feeding calves for long. If a manager doesn’t manage, he isn't a manager. If you're going to hold employees to a standard for their job, you have to be accountable as a manager.”
Designate specific jobs and make each position/shift responsible for specific tasks. Call out poor performance, and praise good performance. When it comes to discipline, follow through and follow up with what you say you're going to do. Be consistent and predictable, and correct procedural drift.
“Employees watch what you are doing and follow the same path,” Wall said. “If you are accountable to them, they will be accountable to you.”
Recognition is not limited to reward.
“Pay attention and pay for performance, differentiating between good and poor performance,” Wall said. “Pay for what you value. Don't pay people for showing up, which is what you're doing if you don't pay for value.”
Connect raises to job reviews and performance; don't make them equal and automatic.
“There has to be a difference,” he continued. “The ‘good’ guys are watching what you do to/for the ‘bad’ guys. They either leave, or slide down to the performance level of the ‘bad’ guys.”