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Image is (almost) everything

Tom Wall Published on 08 June 2010

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Whenever I travel to big cities and foreign countries, I’m reminded of how fortunate I am to live in rural America. There are so many reasons I could list, but simply, it’s the pride we have in the appearance of our small towns and countryside. In most big cities and many other countries, trash seems to be thrown everywhere.

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This makes me wonder, like the chicken and the egg, what came first? Is it that many people don’t care and throw their garbage everywhere and the area starts to deteriorate or is the area already deteriorating and then people quit caring and start littering?

Nonetheless, let’s bring this issue closer to home. Your workplace is subject to the same dynamics and conditions. The same question can be asked as it relates to the image of your dairy’s facilities. And whatever the answer may be, the responsibility always points back to the owners and managers.

We spend so much time, energy and money trying to identify where we can make equipment and facility changes to improve overall performance. And in many cases these changes can make a huge difference. But sometimes we ignore the “attitude element” of the workplace and how this affects your results.

At some dairies, management allows their team to leave employee areas cluttered and messy. Yet, they insist that it’s critical to do a stellar job to keep work areas orderly and equipment sanitized.

It seems few people realize that by walking past the most noticeable things (gloves, iodine stains, clothes, food wrappers, etc.), they unknowingly send the message that being messy or sloppy is acceptable. So how does this environment affect your employees’ attitude? I’m convinced that if workers are undisciplined when it comes to the most apparent things that the boss will surely notice, yet tend to ignore, employees will carry that attitude over to the tasks where procedural drift is easier to hide. Now I’m not recommending you should fight every battle. But cleanliness and image go further than just what your visitors notice. Image helps set the tone for your company’s standards and overall culture.

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On a related note, the same goes for equipment maintenance. If you hope to cultivate an environment of communication and caring, it’s absolutely critical that your managers address the needs of your team as it relates to repairing and replacing broken equipment and tools. If these issues are not addressed in a timely manner, you risk losing your employees’ help when it comes to finding and maintaining equipment that needs attention in the future.

Ultimately, if you allow messy break rooms, bathrooms, hallways, floors and windows, you’re sending the message that there are more important jobs to do than cleaning. And in a company where animal health and food safety are key components that measure your success, cleanliness is at the heart of everything you do.

When it comes to the attitude and image at your company, set the tone and be the example. Don’t settle for anything less! PD

See Chapter 4 of Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point for an intriguing discussion on just how sensitive humans are to their environment – both clean or dirty – and how it affects their actions.

PHOTO: Image helps set the tone for your company’s standards and overall culture. Photo by PD staff.

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