Traverse City Record-Eagle

Business

April 19, 2014

Agriculture Forum: Saying it doesn't mean they got it!

TRAVERSE CITY — Even when you think you do a good job of communicating with employees, you don’t really know what they heard unless you ask.

On a recent farm visit I witnessed a great example of a “communications board” for employees. The farm owner had done a nice job of displaying an organizational chart, showing where the employees fit into the business, and the quality and production goals for the farm. The owner also put together nice graphs on the milk quality levels over time and when the quality incentives would be triggered.

We were pretty excited to see this display. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a start. Imagine our surprise when we asked the milkers about the quality and production goals for the farm, and they couldn’t give us the goals. The employees knew that quality and quantity of milk were important, but nothing specific, despite the owner listing clear, concise goals on the communications board.

What went wrong? Or even better, what do we do now? Obviously we can’t just count on posting information on a display board to adequately communicate between management and employees. The board actually has to be used by all of the team members. In this case it may have been a long time since the owner/manager talked with employees about the goals, and showed them how they were listed on the board. It may also be that new employees were hired since the display board was implemented. Maybe the owner/manager also needs to revisit some language or literacy issues.

In any case, this owner manager immediately addressed the problem. On the very next day he visited with employees about the milk quality and production goals for the farm and walked through the display board with his employees. He also needed to ask employees to tell him what they understood from the display board and how their job performance effects milk quality and quantity.

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