Editor’s Note: Karen Simon is a freelance writer from West Des Moines, Iowa. Her own managerial experience in agricultural organizations served as a valuable foundation for this article.
It’s vaccination day at Three Squeals Farms. The farm manager, Bob, has been up nearly all night with a sick child. Worried and exhausted, he’s in no mood to talk. The new farm hand, Joe, really isn’t sure what to do, but he’s silent for fear of looking foolish, or worse yet, upsetting Bob, and tries his best to mirror his more experienced coworkers’ actions. A few weeks later, all the pigs in three pens are sick. Unbeknownst to the farm manager, Joe inadvertently skipped those pens on vaccination day, lowering the defenses of the animals and ultimately reducing farm profits.
This fictional scenario highlights the importance of effective employer/employee communication. Many hands make light work, but that’s only true if the “hands” understand what they are supposed to do. Everyone makes mistakes, but the likelihood of misunderstanding and error rises exponentially when employers and managers don’t effectively communicate with employees.
Provide the tools and information, and those many hands will make sure everything runs like clockwork.
George Hedley, the author of “Get Your Business to Work!” was having trouble with every aspect of his business. No matter how hard he tried to let his employees do their jobs without his interference, he just couldn’t let go. That is, until he walked into a fast-food restaurant.
“One evening I took my family to McDonald’s,” he recounts. “When I looked around the restaurant, I noticed that the boss wasn’t there, the employees were 16 years old, customers were happy, and the food was consistent, served fast and relatively tasty. I thought: ‘How do they do it without the owner supervising and making every decision?’ I asked a server to show me their secret. He took me behind the counter where they have pictures clearly displaying how to build each menu item. It was that simple.”
Hedley realized he could replicate McDonalds’ method of using pictures and checklists, creating written operational systems that would reduce his dependence on “finding superhuman people who could read my mind and do their work exactly the way I wanted them to do it.”
If you don’t properly communicate your expectations, your employees can’t provide excellent results. That may or may not be as simple as a picture, but it’s all about communication. You, too, can create systems for the important tasks performed at your operation.