The dog days of summer continue, but harvest is not far off. Certainly, there’s always plenty to do in the pork production facilities. 

Staying focused when work mounts and schedules intensify is always a challenge. It’s important that first-line pork employees can focus on the growing pigs and others concentrate on the maturing crops. Supervisors must focus on leading, supervising and coaching these employees. 

In today’s complicated, competitive, ever-changing world, superior productivity and business success require an extraordinary workforce. I’ve talked before about control-focused versus quality-focused supervision:  the former is reactive, while the latter implements  proactive coaching.

Let’s look at a recent and interesting piece of research by the Gallup Foundation.   The research sought to determine how the manager’s approach to coaching employee performance impacted employee engagement. 

To be clear, employee engagement is the degree of focus on performance that enables the business to succeed; it’s important to both employee and business success.

The research asked employees how involved their supervisor was in their performance.

  • My supervisor focuses mostly on building strengths.
  • My supervisor focuses mostly on fixing weaknesses.
  • My supervisor does not focus on either, meaning he/she offers little or no performance feedback.

The study found a dramatic difference in the employee disengagement level.

  • When performance issues were ignored, 40 percent were disengaged.
  • When performance discussions focused on weaknesses, 22 percent were disengaged.
  • When performance discussions focused on strengths only 1 percent were disengaged.

There are two important messages here:

  • Employees want and need performance feedback
  • performance discussions should focus on building on strengths. A third conclusion is that attaining an extraordinary workforce with superior productivity and job satisfaction requires a proactive approach to workforce issues.

To move toward that goal, here are four questions:

  1. What is an extraordinary workforce? The Gallup study clearly shows that engagement is key to an extraordinary workforce. An engaged employee is one who gets  satisfaction from working to fulfill his/her performance expectations and contribute to the business’ success.
  2. How do you know if you have an extraordinary workforce? Let me suggest that owners and employees who are part of an extraordinary workforce would enthusiastically agree to these statements.
    • I have everything I need and am confident I can meet and exceed my performance expectations.
    • I am excited, even passionate, about meeting and exceeding expectations to enable business success.
  3. What is needed to agree with each statement? The first statement requires the following:
    • The key word is “confident.”  Training, coaching and opportunities to grow professionally are required to be confident that one can succeed. Think of sports — the training, coaching and practice build confidence to execute the plays that will determine the game’s outcome.
    • Clarity of expectations, specifically behavior and performance. I call this “chalking the field.” Think of clarity for the players as knowing the rules of the game and their coaches’ expectations. Members of an extraordinary workforce also require such clarity, which includes establishing clear employee performance expectations.
    • Until performance expectations are established, and the worker receives positive feedback, redirection and critiques, no one can be confident that he/she is meeting or exceeding performance expectations.

    Regarding the second statement, indeed, the keys to an elite and passionate workforce are to provide a well-trained supervisor and outstanding business leadership. 

  4. How can your pork production business provide what is needed? Think about how the incredible progress of raising pigs and growing crops in the last decades has been made. The answer lies in research and implementing systems and processes to utilize that research.

For the workforce, we have the research from organizations like Gallup. Now we need the proactive systems and processes to implement that research, including:

  • Hire employees with the competencies to succeed; minimize mis-hires.
  • Chalk the field”; be clear about expectations.
  • Provide performance feedback.
  • Ensure opportunities for on-going professional development.

Editor’s note: You may contact Bob Milligan at (651) 647-0495, or e-mail