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What should I do? Meetings and training

Published on 30 September 2015
man in front of a meeting illustration

“We have a team meeting on our dairy every two weeks. One of the topics we discuss during the meeting is things that need improvement. We review our protocols or provide re-training about important aspects of our dairy’s protocols."

"The training, however, is mostly just visual or auditory – a PowerPoint or a lecture. I get the feeling a hands-on training might be more helpful. There are other purposes for the bimonthly team meeting than just training, and I don’t want hands-on training to extend or replace the meeting."



"How close together should we reinforce the visual and auditory training with hands-on training to make it effective? Will the employees forget between the one meeting and the other? Should we just do hands-on training only? I’m not sure what I should do.”

donald deJong


Donald De Jong
AgriVision Farm Management

 There are different objectives for informational meetings and training sessions. Combining the two may make your time together less productive all around.


In my experience, separating training and meetings is a great way to ensure everyone is focused on the task at hand. On a dairy, when employees are working with large animals and heavy equipment, it is essential they are thoroughly prepared to do their jobs.

When meetings run long or are disorganized, it can leave employees distracted and less focused. This can lead to employees that are not fully trained and could result in injuries or accidents, so it is important employees are focused on learning a new skill or reinforcing current skills.

Visual and auditory training can be a great supplemental tool to keep your employees focused and better trained. However, I have found that hands-on training is extremely beneficial and really helps the employee understand what the procedures are rather than only reading a procedure or having someone lecture to them.

It is important they have a standard operating procedure tied to specific, measurable results. Using your team meetings to review those results and goals will lead to a better understanding of where training is needed to achieve the desired results. 

Each farm then needs to ensure the training provides results in procedures being practiced at all times to ensure safety of employees as well as efficient operations.

Meetings should be a collaboration of ideas and updates on how each area is doing. We have found that using meetings as a tool to discuss the need for training, announce when it will occur and refresh what has been covered in the past is a productive use of meeting time.


mary kraft


Mary Kraft
Human resource director/CFO
Quail Ridge Dairy LLC

 Tackling a big concept is hard to do in a short meeting – and particularly difficult if you spread the discussion over several weeks. We have weekly meetings with each division (i.e., milkers, feeders, maternity, etc.) so we can tailor the message to their specific area.

The meetings last 15 to 20 minutes, are mandatory and are a mix of catching people doing things right, talking about current issues and a short training. This training is a mix of hands-on, lecture and audio, depending on the subject.

The training will change based on weather (i.e., handling cows on ice in winter or beating heat stress in summer) and on the audience (i.e., feeders mixing feed in a bucket or milkers chasing barrels around to learn flight zones).

And then they are repeated every three months. The trainer is bored to death, but for a large number of your employees, this will be their first time to hear, see or touch the information.

Think of how your own kids learn best. Generally, things they “do” stick with them better than lectures. Employees are far more likely to want to come to the next “training” if it was fun, interesting or memorable.

How many times have you had to work with your kids to clean up the dishes, put shoes away or make their beds? Your employees need to hear the same stuff multiple times for it to make sense and become a good habit. They are bright; they just may not yet be in the right place to use your information.

You must put it out there again and again until they are ready to fully grasp the concepts. That’s a challenge for us because we are “cow people” and want to just get people to work with our animals like we would if we could be there all the time.

Since we can’t, we have to constantly be training and coming up with impactful ways to communicate. After all, you are giving your people your Ferrari to drive (your dairy); we should spend plenty of time to teach them how to run it.

doug kirkpatrick


Doug Kirkpatrick
U.S. Partner
NuFocus Strategic Group

 Different people learn in different ways. About 80 percent of people are visual learners, 15 percent are auditory, and 5 percent are kinesthetic – meaning hands-on.

While only 5 percent of learners may best absorb information through touch, a dairy is an intrinsically hands-on environment. It’s hard to see how PowerPoint and lecture will suffice to meet the needs of all learners and embed the learning that needs to take place.

The first step is to decide exactly what training needs to take place. Define what skill and knowledge is essential for each job on the dairy. If everyone needs the same skills and knowledge, that’s great. If different roles require different levels of ability, it’s good to know that too.

Time spent on unnecessary training can be avoided and training targeted on the competencies required for each person. The result of this analysis usually results in a competency model for each position.

Once the required competencies are clearly understood, I would design compact training modules for each role and break the learning into modular chunks. Make training part of every biweekly meeting.

For each training session, begin with a mixture of slides and lecture but open the lecture up to interactive Q&A so it’s not purely didactic. Immediately following the classroom experience, go outside and demonstrate the learning in the work environment, and then let each participant practice the skill or demonstrate competency.

Wherever possible, consolidate training module classes to include the greatest number of participants to best leverage training resources.

The dairy should consider a certification process for each identified competency that it expects each person to have and require each learner to demonstrate that competency before certifying them. Knowledge can be certified with a written or online test. Skill competency can be certified by a physical demonstration.  PD

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ILLUSTRATION: Illustration by Kristen Phillips.