Whether it’s taking your football team to the Super Bowl or producing the highest-quality milk, you need to recruit the best.

Getting qualified and interested applicants is a common concern for dairy producers.

Probably the most successful employee-recruitment methods used by dairies are word-of-mouth testimonials and referrals from current or former employees. Some dairies have even offered bonuses for employees who refer qualified applicants who are hired and work a certain amount of time. Dairies also recruit through other venues, such as employment agencies, high schools, universities, the Internet and local newspapers.

The objective of your recruitment process should be to build a strong applicant pool, so you are not scrambling the day you have an empty position and actually have a choice as to who you hire. Having a recruitment process gives you better choices.

Say you start with eight people. After talking to them briefly and asking them to fill out an employment application, you narrow the list down to three for an interview. With these three, you now have choices. And, you’ve put yourself in a position to find the best.

If you believe your people are your most valuable resource, but then go out and just hire a warm body, your word is out of synch with your actions.

A Hispanic supervisor shared his frustrations recently at 4,000-cow Midwest dairy: “I don’t understand about management; we say we want to better the dairy, yet we hire anybody off the street and just toss them into the parlor with little or no training.”

Ultimately, owners, managers and supervisors must assume responsibility and be accountable for bad hires.

The risk of hiring a bad employee can be minimized with a sound recruitment and selection process. But let’s face it, dairies don’t focus a whole lot of attention on this.

One basic shift in recruiting behavior that you MUST make is to shift from recruiting only when you have an open position to recruiting ALL of the time. Keep an eye out for potential employees wherever you go, whether it’s the people who come to your farm and apply or people you meet in the community.

Think ahead, what kind of employee does the dairy need? What types of skills do you need to complete the tasks at hand?

Producers claim over and over again that if they could only find someone with the “right attitude,” they would hire them and give them the training needed to do the work. In order to make that determination, producers must look at skills, experience and abilities beyond technical dairy skills. You need to look for people who:

  • Show up and seem to have a positive attitude toward work.
  • Assume personal responsibility. Have a willingness to learn.
  • Seem to be able to communicate at a basic level.

Furthermore, you want employees who are engaged and committed to what they do. Engaged employees, in short, treat your dairy as if it were theirs. They:

  • Believe in the organization.
  • Desire to work to make things better.
  • Have an understanding of the dairy business context — the bigger picture.
  • Are respectful of, and helpful to, colleagues.
  • Possess a willingness to “go the extra mile.”
  • Seek learning and training to keep up and develop.

By far, the best method of recruiting new talent to your business is to make your business the kind of place where talented and hard-working people feel appreciated and valued. This makes it easier to retain good employees and develop a reputation for being a great employer.

How far are you from accomplishing this and what are you going to do to get closer to that goal?

Jorge Estrada is an organizational development consultant and leadership coach.