Assembling an “A-Team” roster and not just people on your payroll is easier than most think. With help being hard to come by and some farms having an even harder time with retention, self-reflection may be the key.
The first step is a change in mindset. Technically, hired help is just that — employees. However, is that the way you introduce those people who do the work that you do not have time for or want to do yourself? Or do you talk about your hired help by referencing their culture or origin of birth? Either way, I would argue the need to change your terminology, do this to empower those who you rely on so much.
The crew that is by my side day in and day out are some of the most important people in my life. Without them, there is no way I could run this facility by myself. On our dairy, we do a lot of work with a minimal crew that has to work cohesively, seamlessly, and together as one. We are a team, and that is exactly how I refer to those who work by my side.
Purpose and understanding are next in the structure of a great team. Understanding your team members’ strengths and weaknesses and adding purpose that ties into their abilities can change a person’s entire work experience. For example, there are some people that love working with calves and hate tractor work. Those are the people that I place in charge of the calves and maternity area. That is their passion, and empowering them with the ability to add value to something they love not only improves productivity but workplace morale as well. Even if they have to participate in tractor work at times, their other tasks give them something to look forward to.
Celebrating victories has been an amazing experience on the farm. Too often employers and managers give direction with little explanation. Some may think “I pay you to do what I say” and feel like that is enough reason. However, when the whole team knows not just how we do things but why retention and compliance go up dramatically. In the end, the results are witnessed together.
We like to set goals on our farm as a team and work toward them, both short term and long term. Coincidentally enough, I am hosting the whole team at my house this week because we all reached one of those long-term goals! I am so excited to have the opportunity to celebrate with the team that helped us get there. Many of our team members have been working together for a minimum of 10 years, with others approaching nearly 30 years.
Building a team and not just a payroll has been an amazing journey that never stops. There are times that it takes a lot of self-reflection and practice, but I guarantee you it is worth the effort.
Tyler Ribeiro is a fourth-generation dairy farmer born and raised in California. He is currently partners with his father at Rib-Arrow Dairy in Tulare where they proudly ship their milk to Land O’Lakes. Tyler is actively involved in the dairy industry, holding leadership roles in various organizations locally and across the United States.