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Personality tests and internal surveys: The new norm to manage dairy employees

Jorge Delgado for Progressive Dairy Published on 06 May 2020

Pre-employment assessments and internal surveys are not commonly used tools on dairies, typically due to informal on-farm recruiting and retention practices. However, these resources can provide relevant information about the job performance abilities of an applicant or an existing employee.

And in the current environment where the supply of agricultural employees is limited, pre-employment tests can provide great value for dairy managers seeking to find the right talent – and for screening candidates with the wrong intentions, such as radical animal activists.



Three categories of pre-employment tests

There are many different types of pre-employment tests, but they generally fall into three categories: aptitude, personality and skills.

1. Aptitude tests measure critical thinking, problem solving and the ability to learn routines and digest and apply standard operating procedures (SOPs).

2. Personality tests seek to answer questions in regard to the comfort level with the role and duties and if the candidate’s behavioral traits will be correlated to success in the position. Unlike aptitude tests, there are no right or wrong answers on personality tests. Rather these tests measure the extent to which people possess relatively permanent behavioral traits. Measuring these traits can help dairy farmers predict job fit by determining if a candidate’s behavioral tendencies are a good match for the position, the team and the company culture.

Assessing personality tests for new and existing employees can help dairy farmers predict rule adherence and reliability, and match employee personalities with their roles and responsibilities at the dairy.

Most personality tests include an integrity evaluation, providing a management tool to measure which applicants represent a higher risk of engaging in non-desirable behaviors. Employers often use background checks during the hiring process to mitigate risk, but background checks are expensive and only target people who have a past criminal record.


Integrity tests, on the other hand, will help reduce risk with regard to a host of unproductive behaviors that, while not necessarily as serious as felonies, are generally undesirable by employers. By using integrity tests early in the hiring process, dairy managers can save time and costs while minimizing risk by screening out applicants that might exhibit workplace behaviors that can damage their organizations and teamwork.

3. Skill tests measure job-related competencies, such as general skills like verbal and communication skills, and more specifics, like understanding SOPs. These skills do not necessarily reflect basic aptitude, but rather reflect acquired knowledge based on previous experience on other dairy farms.

Internal surveys

Conducting annual internal surveys among dairy employees can help identify and improve your internal culture. Goals of conducting internal surveys include:

  • Make decisions based on objective information
  • Establish a benchmark from which to compare future results
  • Uncover answers to what motivates employees
  • Evoke discussion between farm management and employees
  • Boost employee productivity
  • Decrease employee turnover
  • Improve employee retention
  • Reduce labor costs
  • Improve employee and animal welfare

Internal anonymous surveys can help dairy owners and managers better understand employee workplace culture on their farms by asking very general questions and feedback from their employees. These surveys can help measure internal structures, systems, technologies and skills and qualities that influence employee behavior, expectations and attitudes. Through better understanding of employee culture, dairy farm owners and managers can address areas of concern to not only improve workplace culture, but also improve employee productivity and motivation.

Have realistic goals

If you want to use these kinds of tools on your dairy farm, it is important to have realistic goals and expectations for what a pre-employment testing program can achieve for your dairy. Keep in mind that some applicants or existing employees don’t have the ability to read or understand some of the questions formulated in these tests, so some assistance in these cases should be applied. By using professionally developed, validated testing instruments, dairy farmers can add objective, data-driven metrics to the hiring and retention processes.

Using tests should drive incremental improvements in the hiring results and minimize the risk of bad hires and radical animal activists. It should also dramatically streamline the hiring process and translate into improvements in a dairy by reducing turnover, lowering hiring and training costs and improving productivity. Pre-employment tests should only be one element within a comprehensive set of criteria used to evaluate applicants, including references from other dairies or members of your team, interviews, job experience, education and anything else relevant for a position.



Knowing your employees’ skills, motivation, weaknesses and abilities can help you – and the employees themselves – be more successful on the job, whether they are working on an entry-level position such as milking technician or a more skilled role such as feeding technician.

Matching employees with tasks based on their skill sets can lead to improved productivity for both the employees and the dairy farm as a whole. Also, a personality test can help determine a person’s reliability and rule adherence to SOPs and protocols at your farm. Knowing these aptitudes allows farm managers and owners to better understand their employees and, as a result, to situate employees in roles that best match their abilities and tendencies.  end mark

Alltech offers proprietary online tests to evaluate employee aptitude, personality and skills, as well as internal surveys to help dairy owners and managers better understand employee workplace culture. For additional information, contact the author.

Jorge Delgado
  • Jorge Delgado

  • On-Farm Dairy Training, Talent Development and Retention Program Specialist
  • Alltech
  • Email Jorge Delgado