Human Resources: Changing the Culture
Employing 238 people, Alliance Dairies Group of Florida has been through some trials and tribulations when it comes to staffing. When Betsey Cunningham started working at Alliance Dairies in 2014 her position wasn’t in human resources, but she shifted that direction when the dairy was having significant employee turnover.
At the time, most employees were only lasting two weeks. The high turnover was a symptom of an I-9 audit the dairy went through five years earlier. Before the audit, employee turnover was almost nonexistent with many staying for a decade or more. After dealing with the I-9 audit, employees were recruited through a work release program. At the time Cunningham took over, 56 positions were filled by people from the work release center.
“Believe it or not if someone is in a work release center and decides that work really isn’t for you think can just milk a cow to fill a spot has a lot more value,” Cunningham says. This led Alliance Dairies to change its recruitment process. A mission was established along with mottos and values to help brand the business. “When we are out in the community, we are a brand that people should aspire to be a part of,” Cunningham says.
Employee recruitment is done through local newspapers, 4-H and FFA. Jobs are posted online via sites such as Craigslist, Indeed, Zip-Recruiter and the company website. Current employees are also offered an incentive to recruit people who will work on the dairy, too. The application process has a three strikes rule that takes into consideration: Do you have a valid driver’s license? Do you have a high school diploma? Do you have a criminal history? Have you had past steady employment? One or two items might not be a major factor, but after three they are no longer considered. Records and backgrounds are checked, too. Prospective employees are asked about working nights, weekends or holidays.
Cunningham interviews potential hires who make it through the application process. She then fits them with a division of the dairy that best suits their abilities and has the manager conduct a secondary interview.
“I’ve never hired anyone,” Cunningham says, “because I’m not managing anyone.” Should a person be selected by the manager, they are onboarded with necessary details and provided safety equipment. Orientation occurs after two weeks so new hires are not overloaded with an overview of the farm when they are just getting their feet wet. Follow ups are done at 25, 55 and 85 days to provide additional training for improvement.
The Alliance Dairies culture has changed. Recognition programs develop relationships and build a family atmosphere. Employees are awarded for years of service and birthdays are celebrated. Annual reviews are held at the start of each year. Events on the farm like milk and cookie eating competitions, Alliance Olympics— barnyard-style games—and Christmas parties have improved the team atmosphere. Cunningham says employees went from just getting a paycheck to having a purpose.
“We went from satisfaction to development. We’re no longer bosses, we’re coaches. Our supervisors are team captains.”