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The function of role clarity: Survey question highlight

Contributed by Monty Miller and Neil Michael Published on 08 February 2016

Role clarity seems fairly self-explanatory, yet is often an issue on-farm. It is imperative dairies get a handle on this concept. Employees need increased role clarity if the operation is to achieve greater success.

For example, the culture survey asks: “To what extent do you clearly know what is expected of you in the organization?”



You might be surprised by the answer – but you shouldn’t be. The following survey data are computed by generating the means and standard deviations for all the demographic subgroups. Based on 37 dairies and 571 participants, the following conclusions can be drawn about role clarity on participating dairies:

  • Participants 50 years old or greater have the highest level and consistency in understanding their roles. Participants 30 to 49 years old have the lowest level and are also the least consistent in understanding their role in the operation.

  • Consistency of answers is important because it establishes how well respondents understand where they fit on the dairy. The higher the level of inconsistency, the less role clarity these individuals possess.

  • Results differ based on education level. Participants with a Bachelor of Science degree had the greatest level and consistency of role clarity, followed by people with a Master of Science or other advanced degrees. Those with the least role clarity and spread of scores were participants with a high school diploma and those who preferred not to respond.

  • Consultants and managers have the greatest level of role clarity on the dairies. Participants with the lowest level of role clarity also have the least consistent responses.

  • Members of the family who own the dairy have the greatest role clarity and more consistency of response compared to those who are non-family members.

  • Participants who responded to the survey in Spanish had a lower understanding of their role and were more inconsistent in their answers. Participants who took the survey in English had a greater and more consistent understanding.

It’s appreciated

Ultimately, spending the necessary time giving employees new knowledge and skills is greatly appreciated. This process is supported and underscored by the data.

It creates greater connectivity with managers and owners. Plus, most of the participants felt they have to “think differently” at work. This aids in the retention of good employees, as well as attracting higher-quality employees since it supports their need for security.

The ‘why’ to reduce confusion

People learn, understand and process information differently. Based on the Brain Pathways survey results for dairy personnel, the majority of employees are highly kinesthetic (hands-on learners) and sequential (appreciate understanding the steps and logic).

Given this information, as well as overall survey results, it’s obvious that this is a great opportunity to build role clarity on dairies. But it needs to be done in new and interesting ways.


The solution is more than simply creating procedures and protocols to read and see. A better way is to develop hands-on training and learning, with ample visuals and discussion to create learning and peace of mind employees are doing their jobs correctly.

Furthermore, dairies working to create more constructive cultures will be aided in this quest by teaching employees more than “what” needs to be done. Helping employees understand the desired outcome and “why” will help them better perform their jobs.

Get to the ‘why’

Jordan Leak, manager at Aardema Dairy in Wendell, Idaho, implements the use of a planning document with his managers to help reach this level of understanding.

When discussing an issue or opportunity, he asks the participant to write (kinesthetic) the plan for resolving an issue or opportunity. The employees create the steps, draw a picture and perhaps number the steps.

During the process, they discuss (the auditory part of learning) and they see (visual part of learning) the plan. This is using all three learning styles, plus it is very sequential, which all align with the Brain Pathways data on how employees on dairies like to learn and process information.

Finally, when done, who owns the plan? The employee does. And that increased level of understanding and buy-in greatly aids implementation when adopting or changing protocols and procedures. When people understand why things are done and have a hand in the process, it greatly reduces confusion while increasing acceptance. Role clarity increases as a result, which is a win for the dairy and for employees.  PD


Click here to read a series of five articles about cultures on a dairy farm.