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How to keep and then build your star dairy employees

Lonny Geiman for Progressive Dairyman Published on 29 September 2017

The world of business continues to change and evolve at a tremendous pace. The workplace and workforce has changed significantly, especially in the last 10 years. The practice of management, however, has been frozen in time for more than 30 years.

According to a recent Gallup world study, seven out of 10 people in an organization would take a new job if it were offered, and the primary reason given is the relationship they have with their supervisor. Furthermore, the study suggests 30 percent of American workers are engaged in their work – and 70 percent are not.



For decades now, productivity in the workplace has been in a general decline. These statistics should alarm management, as they are severely impacting the bottom line.

What these alarming statistics suggest is: We need to transform our workplace cultures and start over. Employees in the studies above say they don’t dislike the organization they work for; it’s just that often the enthusiasm they once had is squashed by a manager who has never been prepared to coach the new-age workforce.

It may not be the manager’s fault so much as these managers have never been taught how best to communicate and lead others.

Oftentimes we want to label employees as difficult, but oftentimes, in reality, they are just different from us. Aside from having differences in ages and cultures, we all think differently and have different perspectives of how we view things. The old “my way or the highway” style is just not working, and it’s sending our superstars packing. A-team players will not tolerate playing with C-team players for very long.

In their defense, managers today have been given more training on how to correctly write someone up on an HR form than training on how to have a development conversation with their direct reports.


Managers, we need to wake up. We have got to come to the realization the entire problem in our workforce is not all about “them” and come to grips with the fact we are failing to deliver on our end too.

Where do we even start in bringing energy, commitment and extra effort back to the workplace? How do we turn most of our people from giving just enough effort to bringing all of their hands, heads and hearts to work? How do we create a culture with high energy and consistent performers versus high drama and a bunch of excuses?

Work on the following three areas, and you will be on your way to creating a culture of committed people and high performance.

First, it begins with changing what leaders believe – and changing how they lead. Old-school management is about pushing on people for results. Leadership is about pulling people up and helping to develop them with continual improvement. It starts with how we set people up for success when we first bring them into our organization instead of setting them up to flounder and become frustrated.

New employees, within days, have made it up in their minds whether or not they made a good decision in coming to your organization based on what they witness. As organizations, we have to be more intentional on how we get people off on the right foot.

Next, we must do a much better job of connecting with our people. I often hear managers say, “I just don’t talk much.” Well, guess what, you have got to get better at that if you’re going to be in the position you are in. It would be like putting a kid in the quarterback position who has no desire to ever pass the ball.


It’s just not going to work out. A good leader knows his or her primary role is to help make the people and team better. He or she has to be good at the technical skill sets of the job, but communication and coaching people up is critical to the role.

Always remember, people want to follow people who they feel are stronger and can help them. Having the title of manager is only a starting point and the right to lead others. Nobody is born a leader, and the good news is: It is a skill set that, when focused on, can always be improved. Any good sports team that wins consistently always begins with having a good coach.

Finally, it is critical we involve our people in our purpose and vision of where we are going. Never forget we are people first and employees second. We want to clearly understand our role, how it contributes to the big picture, and be made to feel we are part of a team.

We want to know our views are valued and appreciated. It is critical we have a chain of command and clarity on how communication should flow up and down through the organization. However, never confuse this with not giving your people a voice. The more they feel heard and valued, the more they will give their heads, hearts and extra effort back in return.

You may recall hearing, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” A team that locks arms with high levels of trust and pulls together will accomplish amazing results. Creating a great culture where people want to come to work every day will pay you huge dividends, not only today but also in long-term success and profitability. If you want to win in business year after year, make your culture your number one priority.  end mark

Lonny Geiman’s firm assists dairies with strategic planning and developing leadership depth.

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