Taking care of cows is important. Taking care of the people who take care of the cows is paramount. “Your people make your cows, and you make your people,” says Tom Wall, a dairy labor management consultant based in Green Bay, Wis. Good dairy managers understand the success of any dairy largely depends on successful employees. But too few are willing to put the time and effort into employee management that increases the odds of their success. Wall is quick to acknowledge the reality that good people are hard to find. But once you hire someone, how you train, monitor, motivate, discipline and reward is on you. “You get the team you build,” Wall emphasizes. And the only person who can take control of the culture on your dairy is you. “The ‘raffle rule’ applies: You must be present to win,” he says. The focus of employee management isn’t necessarily on the employees. “The fix isn’t the employees, it’s management,” Wall explains. He says there are five key steps to this engagement:1. Clarify Employees must understand what you need them to do. Put expectations in writing so they are clear. On a practical level, clarification can be as simple as consistent colors on teat dip cups: Green for predip; blue for postdip. 2. Communicate Once you have clarified what needs to be done, tell employees why it must be done that way. You don’t have to go into the science behind everything, but you should explain why lag time between drying teats and unit attachment is important for the cow to milk out quickly and completely. If you don’t consistently communicate expectations, employees figure out what is acceptable, even if it’s not at the higher level of expectation. 3. Connect If you expect employees to care about your cows and your dairy, you need to connect with them on a personal basis. Show them you appreciate them on a daily basis. As competition for employees grows, you need to give yours a reason to stay with you. Show respect for the work people do by keeping equipment in good operating condition and fixing equipment as soon as possible after it breaks. 4. Manage Pay attention. Know the protocols you expect employees to follow. And follow through. “If you’re not managing, who is?” Wall asks. “You must have the consistent courage to follow through. If you see something that is being done incorrectly, say something.” It’s best to immediately correct a bad practice, even if it happens on a Friday night and you’re trying to get to bowling league. Left undisciplined, the bad practice can become habit and routine. 5. Recognize Some dairies give the same raise every year to every employee. But if you treat everyone the same, your best performing employees will likely leave and you will be left with average and subpar performers. Employees who put in extra effort deserve extra recognition. “Reward what is of value,” Wall says.