Will you be employing someone this spring? If so, here are some top tips…

The expansion of the Irish dairy industry has meant more and more dairy farmers are finding themselves either employing someone full-time, or else just for the busy spring period.

Whether you are employing someone for the first time or have been an employer for a long time, the following are some of the key take-home messages from the Glanbia, Teagasc and Macra Agricultural Skillnet people management course – held on Friday, December 13.

1. Structure/routine

Just like any job, structure in the workplace is needed for a good working environment. This includes a well planned out day with a clear outline of jobs to be done and a set start and finish time.

The start and finish time should be decided upon and communicated to the employee(s). If it changes, for any reason, this must be communicated to the employee(s).

This is also in terms of the payment structure. A payment structure should be developed including the amount – noting whether it is an hourly or a salary wage – along with when and the how the employee(s) will be paid.

And finally, a roster should be drawn up so days off are structured and planned in advance. The roster should then be communicated with the employee(s) to make ensure they are agreeable with it.

2. Preparation

Whether it is your first time employing someone, or you are a current employer, it is a good idea to be prepared for an employee(s).

A list of jobs should be compiled, the strengths and weaknesses of the employee(s) assessed and the most suitable person matched to the most suitable tasks.

Moreover, standard operating procedures (SOPs) should be developed and communicated to the employee. A SOP is a document or a sign with a clear step-by-step guide, or instructions, on how to complete a particular task or procedure on the farm.

SOPs can be adopted for tasks such as the milking routine, washing the milking machine, calf feeding, treating a cow for mastitis, treating a calf with scour and many more tasks that farmers perform on a daily basis.

SOPs don’t necessarily have to be written down once they are communicated to the employee(s). Although it is a good idea to write them down.

3. Money not biggest driver, but it is important

The farmers present at the event agreed that money is never the answer, but it is often what the money represents. They found that a happy work environment was more important.

However, one farmer made the point that it often is the money, once the employee can tell you the reason why.

4. Don’t assume everything is OK

Another take-home message from the event was not to assume that everything is OK with your employee(s).

Communicate with your employee(s) to ensure that they are happy with what they are doing; in terms of their assigned roles or tasks, hours, payment structure, etc.

5. Facilities

Finally, farm facilities were mentioned. Having a farm that is a good workplace is crucial not just for employee(s), but also for the farm family and the farmer himself, or herself.

Adequate farm facilities in good working order should be provided – e.g. milking parlour, cow and calf accommodation, etc.

A good farm workplace is a safe place to work, well organised, and people have the resources they need to efficiently complete all tasks.

The farm workplace should also include basic facilities for an employee(s). For instance somewhere for them to have their lunch.

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