More and more, across the u.s. dairy industry, we see the expansion of dairies to multi-site operations. A large operation decides to expand, buys another site within miles of the original site, and builds a separate dairy — perhaps in a different state. Other businesses within and outside of agriculture do it, too.

A key question for owners and managers of these operations is the level of consistency that is needed, required or desired from one operation to the other. What about protocol and standard operating procedures? What about human-resource functions? 

Site-specific functions

Some multi-site dairies, because of their proximity to one another, choose to have specific functions performed at one or two of their sites. For example, they may freshen all cows in one place, raise all calves and heifers at another, and so on.  

Leverage strengths and talents

You certainly want to leverage the diversity of thought, management skills and leadership abilities of your managers at the different sites — this is very good for your business. But when it comes to human resources and personnel-management functions, I would encourage you to create consistencies across sites. 

Recently, I ran across a multi-site dairy (five locations) in the West where a manager at one operation was very frustrated because he had fired an employee for poor performance, yet another one of their sites hired the same employee two days later. The two sites had very different policies. One site would automatically let employees go if they showed up to work drunk. The other site, however, would send drunk workers home for a couple of days and then they could have their jobs back. 

Consistency needed for HR purposes

Some multi-site operations have all of the rules spelled out on paper, either through an employee handbook or some sort of agreement the employee signs when first hired. But other operations need to take a closer look at this issue. Failure to have consistent HR functions across all of your sites leaves the business exposed and subject to possible fines, lawsuits and legal problems.

As personnel managers and leaders of large and growing dairy organizations, we need to be more proactive and consistent in creating commitment, motivation and retention the moment these new employees step onto the dairy. 

Jorge M. Estrada is president of Leadership Coaching Intl. in Puyallup, Wash.

Basic human-resource functions that should be consistent across sites:

1. Recruitment, employee selection and firing methodology
and processes (Equal Employment Opportunity).

2. Compensation, salary, bonuses.

3. Benefits, such as insurance.

4. Description of roles and responsibilities.

5. Training and development.

6. Personnel rules and policies including disciplinary rules.