Training your staff shows you value them and this leads to increased job satisfaction and staff retention. It also allows you to fill in skill gaps that exist in your business and have confidence in your team.
- Discuss with your employee their existing skill set. Agree on any gaps between where they are at and where they need to be. Also find out the areas where your employee is interested in learning more.
- Think about what skill gaps exist on your farm, if any.
- Write a training plan for each employee which details what training they need, or want, and why. In conjunction with your employee, decide if on-farm or off-farm training will be most effective. Usually, a combination of the two is best as it provides variety.
- Identify training providers and when courses are available.
- Schedule regular and structured on-farm training into your employee's roster (and your own where relevant) and encourage and support them to complete it.
- Provide opportunities for your employee to practice their new skills on farm post-training. This cements the learning.
- For new employees, create a training plan in the first 2 to 4 weeks when things on farm are a bit quieter. This should be built into their orientation and will ensure they get up to speed quicker.
- Training should happen for all employees, not just those that are new.
Quick Questions & Answers
When do I focus on training?
Training can and should happen all year round, especially on-farm.
Be realistic however, and make sure training can fit into your employee's roster whilst giving them time with family and friends. On most farms it is unrealistic to think much off-farm training can happen from calving through to mating. People only have so much energy to give and need non-work time to recharge the batteries.
For new employees it is a good idea to create a training plan in the first 2 - 4 weeks when things on farm are a bit quieter. This should be built into their orientation and will ensure they get up to speed quicker.
Summer and autumn are good times to work through existing employees' training plans for the coming year.
How do I provide effective training on farm?
To make on-farm training effective you need to create a good atmosphere for learning to happen.
You need your employee to feel comfortable enough to try new things and if not successful the first time to give it another go. This means you need to be careful not to talk down to employees or dismiss any ideas they have from previous experience.
However don't assume what knowledge or experience your employees have - ask them. This will help to ensure that you don't under-explain concepts.
A good process to follow for training staff on-farm is:
- Break the skill to be taught into simple components.
- Explain to the employee why the skill is important.
- Discuss with the employee what they already know about the skill and determine what knowledge is missing.
- Demonstrate and explain the skill to the employee slowly. Pause between steps and be sure all steps can be clearly seen.
- Allow the employee to go through a skill step-by-step while the you talk through what is to be done and help out where needed.
- Allow the employee to demonstrate the skill on his/her own without input from you.
- Ask the employee to give feedback on how they did. Give feedback to the employee on how they performed the skill. Don't forget to note the positive points!
- Repeat steps 4, 5, and 6 as needed.
If you are going to conduct group on-farm training consider the team dynamics before you start. This may help you manage the different personalities.
Can I expect my employees to attend training on their day off?
Where possible it is best that employees complete the majority of their training during work time. This shows your employee how highly you value both them and the training, which increases motivation and also the likelihood of the training being completed.
Of course your roster may mean that some training does fall on days off and can't be changed. Agree upfront with your employee what will happen in these circumstances. It may be acceptable to you both that 80% of training occurs within rostered hours and 20% outside, or it may be that any training completed out of work hours is given back by time-in-lieu. The exact breakdown is likely to be influenced by who initiates the training and the costs (both financial and time) associated with the training.
Supporting training is a great way to help retain employees as they feel appreciated and that they have opportunities to learn and develop. Typically this will lead to your team being more engaged.
Can I expect my employees to pay for their own training?
Generally training is paid for by the employer. The employee makes the commitment to better themselves and learn new skills and the employer provides the opportunity.
Initially training might be seen as a cost but really it should be viewed as an investment. Your business will benefit from the additional skills your employee gains and the enthusiasm they bring to the job.
Finding an employee a good coach or mentor is one of the most effective forms of training. Build this into the training plan you develop with your employee.