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Prepare new employees for a successful first day

Progressive Dairyman Editor Karen Lee Published on 16 April 2015

There is a lot to think about when hiring an employee, including recruiting, interviewing, checking references and selecting the right individual. Don’t let those efforts go to waste by not following through as they are welcomed into the farm.

Melissa O’Rourke, farm and agribusiness management specialist at Iowa State University, provided a couple of tips to smoothly take an employee from the interview to the first day on the job while speaking at the 2015 PDPW Business Conference in Madison, Wisconsin.

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First, once the employment offer has been accepted, establish a start date and clearly communicate when he or she is expected to arrive. Should the employee get there right on time or plan to arrive early to change, put their boots on, etc. to be ready to work at the stated time? This can be the difference to whether or not the employer or employee believes they are on time.

O’Rourke also suggested creating a frequently asked question list to send to employees prior to their first day on the job. Have this handout ready if you are one to hire people on the spot. Or, ask how the employee would like to have it sent to them – email or mail – and if he or she actually checks the preferred method often.

The frequently asked question sheet may seem elementary to you as an employer, but it could really help put your new employee’s mind at ease before he or she begins work in a new place.

Here are six basic questions O’Rourke said are common to new employees:

1. What should I wear?

What type of footwear, gloves or other attire are employees expected to wear? Not every employee comes with a previous farm background and may need guidance on what is appropriate farm attire.

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Will the farm provide apparel to be worn on the job, such as coveralls, boots or gloves? Let the employee know this so they don’t purchase something they won’t need.

Explain any biosecurity guidelines. Does the employee need to shower in and shower out? Can he or she wear boots that have been worn on another farm?

“Do not assume that new employees know what they should wear to work,” O’Rourke said.

It would also be helpful to share if there is a place to change into clothing on-site or if he or she should arrive dressed for work.

2. Should I bring my lunch or snacks and beverages?

Some employers provide a lunch for everyone or make break food available. Other farms might go into town each day for lunch. Some places do not provide food or beverages. Let the employee know the standard practice for your farm so he or she can bring whatever they need to stay fueled throughout the day.

If the employee should bring food, let him or her know what food storage is available on-site. Is there a refrigerator, or is a personal cooler necessary?

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Is there a break room employees can use for meals and snacks, or do people usually leave or sit in their vehicles during breaks?

3. Do I need a vehicle and where can I park?

Is a vehicle required for use in the position? If so, this should be communicated in advance.

Where are employees expected to park? Sharing this in advance could keep them from blocking milk tankers or other common routes on the farm.

4. What documents should I bring on my first day of work?

New employees will need to fill out an I-9 form and other forms on their first day of work. Refer to the forms’ instructions, and share what the employee must supply in terms of documentation to complete these forms.

5. What should I bring (or not bring) to work?

Is the employee expected to carry his or her cellphone? State whether or not personal electronic devices are allowed on the farm.

This is also where the employer can cover items such as tobacco use and the farm’s weapons policy.

6. What will I do on my first day or first week?

“There is a lot of apprehension on the part of the employee,” O’Rourke said. Explaining the farm’s orientation and training process will help a new employee know what to expect.

Clearly communicate work hours and break policies, and give the employee a general outline of the tasks he or she is expected to do.

By having the answers to some questions in advance, a new employee will be less concerned about basic farm policies and will be more prepared to focus on what they were hired to do. PD

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