In conversations with employers, New Mexico State University’s Robert Hagevoort said he most often hears complaints about employee management. When he digs further, he shared that employers are frustrated with employee performance and turnover.
Can you relate?
“Employment on a dairy is not based on skill. We don’t go through a hiring process to see what potential employees’ skillsets are,” said Hagevoort at the recent North American Agricultural Safety Summit. “It’s based on the willingness to perform tasks. Then, we will figure out what that person’s good at or not.”
Hagevoort didn’t call this an unreasonable hiring practice, but he did paint a picture of a better job market where potential employees are trained and prepared to do the work they are hired for. If that’s too lofty of a hope, then perhaps they are trained on-site to do their job well.
That goal has spurred a training project that he has worked on for many years with David Douphrate at the University of Texas School of Public Health in San Antonio. Anabel Rodriguez, a doctoral student under Douphrate, said that language and comprehension are two of the biggest challenges for trainers to overcome.
In a two-year training program facilitated by the group, 1,436 employees were trained in the Southern and Western parts of the U.S. Of that group, more than half had no more than a middle school education. When it comes to training, Rodriguez said that overcoming those barriers with visual and interactive learning was essential.
Hagevoort spoke to this need as well. “Paper SOPs are not training materials,” he said. “We need to have those in the office, but too often we take those SOPs, give them to a person, and tell them ‘this is how we do the job.’”
What the group does recommend is interactive learning platforms in the native language of the employee being trained. Most importantly, however, is sharing not just what to do, but also why we do it that way.
“In telephone interviews, Spanish-speaking employees feel they receive less information about the ‘why’ part of their jobs than English-speaking workers, and they do want to learn more,” Hagevoort said. “They want to learn more, and we have to give them that opportunity.”
Language aside, employees well trained to understand both the what and the why of their jobs are more effective and more invested in the farm. Training for these employees can mean a safer workplace and more contentment with employee management.