From cattle handling to overall management, staffing is a key factor for any feedlot and has a direct impact on the bottom line.
“All too often, we are seeing that people jump into a new position at a feedlot without the knowledge or confidence to do their best,” says Nicolas Buttars, labor management specialist, Pfizer Animal Health. “This type of hiring and lack of training is not good for the new employee, the cattle and certainly not for the feedlot owners.”
Rather than jump directly into the day-to-day workload, a more structured “onboarding” or training plan for new employees can help build confidence, prepare them to do the job correctly and set new hires up for long-term success.
By definition, onboarding is the complete integration or immersion of new employees to your operation. Properly onboarding new employees requires an added time commitment from managers, but it can translate to dollars in the long run. Research has shown that offering complete training increases bottom-line returns by improving productivity and minimizing employee turnover, which can cost an operation 1.5 to 2 times the person’s annual salary, according the American Management Association.
“The onboarding process begins before the employee is interviewed and will typically last throughout the first 60 to 90 days of employment at the feedlot,” Buttars says. “The process is inclusive of not only the initial interview, but orientation, training and performance reviews as well.”
When evaluating how to improve the current onboarding process at your feedlot, consider the following:
- Interview process: Develop and train managers to extensively interview potential employees. Personality traits and previous experience can help you determine what role they might best fit. One key is to understand what your best employees value about working for your organization and find other employees with similar goals.
- New employee orientation: Familiarize new employees with practices and procedures on the feedlot. Take the time to discuss important factors for success and the specific role they will play.
- Job training: Encourage managers and supervisors to work alongside new employees during a typical day at the feedlot while thoroughly explaining each task. This also is a great time to extensively cover the basics and expectations for the position.
- Training review: After initial training, managers and supervisors should check in regularly to rate employee performance and to keep them engaged. Regular reviews give employees an opportunity to correct any mistakes and/or provide positive reinforcement to keep up the good work. Unfortunately, when asked about performance related feedback, many employees say they receive no feedback on how they are doing.
- Setting milestones: Whether in conjunction with reviews or on separate occasions, setting milestones for new employees — and the feedlot as a whole — will give them motivation to continue the good work. Try incorporating incentives such as a raise or other benefits into milestones.
“Not only is it important to have a solid onboarding program in place when hiring a new employee, but it is also important to designate these responsibilities to someone on the feedlot,” Buttars says. “Having an existing employee responsible for training new employees is the key to having a consistent and successful onboarding process.”
After hearing about and seeing challenges from customers who work for large operations, Pfizer Animal Health developed the PeopleFirst™ program. Certified PeopleFirst consultants can assist operations of all sizes to implement and improve existing hiring and training protocols. Visit Pfizer’s Grow People First website to learn more about what PeopleFirst can offer.