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Ready, set ... train

Lisa Holden Published on 19 January 2010

Ask a group of 50 people to fold a sheet of paper and make an airplane and you will likely get a variety of shapes and styles – from this very simple task.

Show them a model, explain the folding steps and demonstrate – you’ll likely get a room full of the same paper planes. Training can make all the difference. Whether it’s correct milking preparation, assisting with calving or mixing feed – proper training can make a difference in worker performance and overall productivity at your dairy. This article will review a simple process for training that encompasses methods to match a variety of learning styles and make overall training more successful.

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From training and orientation for new employees or re-training or professional development opportunities for existing workers, investing in the human capacity of your dairy can pay off in better productivity and profitability. The American Society for Training and Development estimated that U.S. businesses spent nearly $135 billion on training in 2007. How much does your dairy invest each year in training and development? Are you certain that workers understand the procedures and protocols that have been established in your operation as well as how best to perform their jobs? If you are ready to take a closer look at your training program, here are three key steps to take to make your training more effective.

Step one
Use different training methods and materials to accommodate differences in learning styles. Understanding differences in learning styles and developing a process for training that uses various methods and materials will help workers to learn better. Learning new skills and gaining new knowledge can be enhanced by combining methods to make certain that workers with various learning styles access and use information.

For example, auditory learners prefer listening to information and could benefit from CDs, podcasts and verbal instruction during the training process. Visual learners need to “see” or “read” the explanations and will benefit from written standard operating procedures, instructions and videos or demonstration.

Likewise, tactile or kinesthetic learners are able to learn most easily through movement and do best with a hands- on approach with demonstration and some practice. Tactile or kinesthetic learners may not be as able to read or listen and gain understanding without the added step of being able to practice what they have learned. A combination of training methods geared toward all types of learning styles can work best for an overall training program.

Step two
Develop training goals and use a structured process to achieve those goals. Developing training goals and a plan for training will help to ensure that your investment pays off in terms of workers learning new skills, correct procedures and safe methods for working.

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For example, at the end of new milker training, what should the milker know and be able to do? How will they be evaluated? What is the goal for cows per hour for the parlor? What is the expectation for peak milk flow? Setting and communicating specific goals for training at the beginning, then evaluating periodically, is part of a sound training program.

Once training goals are established, a structured process of “Plan, Show, Do, Review” can be most effective.
“Plan” by providing written procedures, documents, articles and/or videos to help explain what training will be about and share the goals and expectations.

“Show” workers each step of the process and explain why each is important. Showing the milker how to perform the correct milking procedure is only part of the process. Explain why each step is important and build their understanding and link it to the overall goal. For example, improper prep-lag times will not result in optimal milk letdown and peak milk flows. Show them the right way to perform the task and explain why it is the right way.

“Do” – have workers perform each task in the training themselves. New workers are often reluctant to ask questions and don’t want to appear that they don’t know or understand. Having the worker perform the tasks allows you to determine if they truly understand and are able to complete the tasks.

“Review” each step as the worker completes it. Correct any errors made, encourage continued attention to detail to perform tasks like the training and follow up periodically to make certain the job is done correctly. Observe workers following training to make certain new skills that were emphasized during training are actually being used consistently and correctly.

Step three
Evaluate your training program and see if changes are needed and where improvements can be made annually. With so many day-to-day priorities and the intensity of a dairy operation 365 days a year, often little thought is given or time is spent looking at developing the human capital on your dairy. A short year-end review, either verbally or in writing, at one of your employee meetings asking about training needs, may just help to build new skills, gain new commitment, or show value to your workforce.

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Get them ready with a variety of methods to match all different learning styles. Set up a process using “Plan, Show, Do, Review.” Train for greatest impact and return on your investment. PD

Lisa Holden
  • Lisa Holden

  • Associate Professor,
  • Dairy and Animal Science
  • Penn State University
  • Email Lisa Holden

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