’Tis always the season for giving appreciation, especially to employees. That is no different on the dairy or any ag operation that employs labor to conduct business.
As the dairy industry continues to change, so will its reliance on hired labor. In successfully adapting to those changes, the use of the modern tools of human resource management has great potential for improving the productivity and efficiency of the dairy industry.
This message is for everyone: small or large operations, employees or not, spouse or no spouse, kids, too. If you don’t show appreciation, you will appear arrogant, ungrateful or insensitive, which will result in labor (or family) problems.
Appreciation is an essential part of working with people and having them work for you. If you are not good at showing appreciation, then work on it. Nothing substitutes for appreciation.
Showing appreciation was the subject of an article written 10 years ago by Phil Durst, Michigan State University’s Extension dairy specialist. When preparing for this message, I came across it again and will adapt my comments from this well-written piece. I’ll share his five characteristics of showing appreciation. How many are true in your dealings with employees and family members?
- Show appreciation to family as well as nonfamily employees. Although this shouldn’t need to be stated, all too often we overlook those closest to us. We expect their efforts and, therefore, often neglect to thank them and make them feel valuable. None of us likes to be taken for granted. Even though family members have a vested interest in the success of the farm, they need to feel that they are important to you in the business as well as personally.
Employees also should have opportunities to show appreciation to one another. Maybe this happens by having a dry-erase board mounted in the milk house that is reserved for notes of appreciation.
- Be specific in your thanks or praise: “I really like the way you clean the parlor after milking” or “You are doing a great job at prepping teats.” This reinforces the specific action and allows you to build upon it in the future.
- Appreciation should be frequent. Timing is always a balance. Appreciation shouldn’t be so frequent that it loses its meaning, but neither should it be so infrequent that it stuns the recipient. It also should not be predictable. Don’t put it on your calendar like progesterone injections. That has a ring of insincerity. Take note of the positive things about people, and when you note it, say something then and there.
- Appreciation should be public. First, the opposite: Criticism always should be private. Never rebuke an employee in front of others. But be quick to praise an employee or family member in front of others.
- Appreciation should be creative, tailored and varied. Don’t get in a rut, and don’t hesitate to seek new ways to show appreciation.