Ask Hector: Know Your Workers
How do you motivate employees who are taking shortcuts?
Usually guys create shortcuts because they feel overworked. Often they think they are simply speeding up their tasks and don’t realize the consequences of the steps they skipped. They don’t mean to cause a problem. Most of the time when you explain how the shortcut they have created is actually hurting their performance, it will stop. The easiest way I can explain it is if I don’t stop at the gas station to fi ll up my gas tank because I’m trying to cut time off my errands, I will eventually run out of gas, causing myself a bigger hassle in the long run. You just need to tell your employees what’s going to happen if they continue to skip steps. For example, if they don’t follow the milking procedure properly and don’t clean teats well, our counts will go up. If you explain to your employees they are lowering the quality of the milk, they will start to clean better. I recently had an experience with this. We were having headaches with our fresh-cow pen, and after observation, we realized a few of the guys were taking some shortcuts. I took them aside and explained how their shortcuts were actually causing more work for everyone because we had to treat more cows and leave cows in the fresh pen longer. I don’t think you need to fire a guy unless he’s just lazy. You should know your guys well enough to be able to tell if they’re lazy or overwhelmed.
What’s the most important thing to keep in mind when training an employee?
First, you need to do your homework to find out if the employee has any experience. If you’re hiring a milker, find out where he worked before. Ask what kind of routine was used on that dairy. Once you know some history about the person, then you know what kind of training you have to do. Some guys take 20 minutes to train; another guy might take a month—it depends on the job and the person. If you’re training an older guy who’s been milking for 10 years, he will be quick to train. What if you’re about to hire a kid right out of school with lots of knowledge and experience with technology but hasn’t worked in a parlor? It will likely take longer to train him because he already thinks he knows everything but doesn’t have any hands-on experience. It’s very important to put the routine in writing. It’s simple to learn if the steps are written out in front of the person. Our routine sheets also have pictures. I also try to schedule new guys on the same shift as old guys. Bottom line, you have to know who you’re hiring. Some are very good and all you have to do is show them the schedule; others will take several weeks to fi gure out the routine.