You’ve searched high and low, and you’ve finally hired an outstanding individual. But if you’re not prepared to train that person, you have sabotaged your efforts.

The days of hiring a worker and turning him or her loose in your hog buildings are over. You can’t expect anyone, especially a new person, to know exactly how you want things done on your operation. Today you need to be a teacher, a motivator and a referee.

Some upfront planning will help protect yourself, the employee and your business. For instance, can you recite your goals for the year ahead? What are your policies concerning vacation, the environment, public activities? Do you plan to expand or hire more employees?

It doesn’t matter if you have two employees or 20, there are several tools you need before you can expect an employee to be focused or motivated. Let’s take a look at some suggestions:

Staff development/projections

This should be first on your list. Before you begin the hiring process, determine your future business growth.

In this process you need to evaluate the employees you have, the types of jobs they are doing, and how that may change in the future. Also look at current and projected production goals.

From there you can determine the
areas where you need to add full- or part-time workers.

Think through the steps you need to include in a training program for each job. This is where you begin to prepare employees once they’re on board.

“The goal is to make a smooth transition so you don’t have problems with new employees fitting into your system,” says TinaRae Enns, production recruiter/
trainer for Heartland Pork Enterprises, Kansas, Ill.

Job descriptions

Job descriptions define who will do what, says Don Tyler, an independent employee-management consultant.

He recommends keeping the outline to one page with brief job responsibility statements.

Here’s one example:

Tyler advises including the goals for each position. For example, the breeding manager’s goal is to mate 27 sows per week and achieve an 85 percent farrowing rate within the established cost budget for the unit.

“Job descriptions aren’t complete unless they have the physical requirements of the job listed,” Gloria Hanson, human resources manager D &D farms, Pierre, S.D., adds. Some examples include outlining how much lifting the job entails, if you have to be on your feet for eight to nine hours on concrete, or if you’re required to move dead adult pigs.

By having job descriptions outlined, you can help employees specialize in certain areas, Enns points out. This doesn’t mean you can’t cross-train, but job descriptions will help you and your employees accomplish day-to-day and week-to-week goals.

Enns also says it’s important to have job descriptions as a base but don’t make them all inclusive. When you’re ready to offer someone a job, these guidelines will give the applicant a vehicle to discuss his or her experience and provide a chance to ask questions.

If you’re moving through the transition of hiring your first employees, you may take lots of things for granted. Creating a job description lets you decide what qualifications you need for the job.

Lastly, have a job description for every position on the farm, whether it be a truck driver, power washer, farrowing manager or breeding technician.

Company policy/employee manual

“The purpose of an employee handbook and policy manual is to provide a framework of equity and fairness for employees,” Tyler says. “Poor employees will take advantage of the good ones if there aren’t standard policies. Unfortunately, it’s reality in the workplace.”

The manuals are particularly helpful during group orientation. This should be done during the first month of employment, not necessarily on the first day. Once you’ve reviewed it with all new employees, have them sign a written acknowledgment that they know what’s in the handbook and understand the policies.

Here are some suggested items to include in your employee handbook. Since each operation is different, you may have to make adjustments to fit your needs.


Company or farm background and mission statement.


Equal employment opportunity and harassment policy statements.


Attendance policies.

Disciplinary actions.


Standard work week/flex hours.


Holidays, vacation days and sick leave.


Absence reports, overtime and salary reviews.



Biosecurity policy.

Company property.

Confidentiality   –   interaction with media.

Expense reimbursement.

Off-farm activities.


Safety protocols or programs.




Operating procedures for each unit or area

This is where you define the working procedures of each area or job. It includes the quality and quantity of the work to be done.

Start by detailing what needs to be done daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and so forth. Then spell out procedures to follow, even if they seem obvious.

“If you have standardization, you can say, ‘This is what we do, how we do it and why,’” Enns explains. This is especially helpful if you have more than one facility. Then, if employees are moved, it shortens the learning process and they become comfortable more quickly.

“No matter how many employees you have, you have to treat people fairly,” Hanson explains. “If you don’t have procedures in place, you simply can’t.” And it’s important that employees participate in setting goals and outlining procedures when possible. 

“We’re not trying to make a mold, but we want to have some continuity,” Enns continues.

Still, don’t have so many policies that it takes away an employee’s independence. “Some standardization is necessary, but we don’t want to discourage creativity,” Hanson says.

For instance, at D & D Farms there’s no policy that says employees at all sow farms will work certain hours. The managers and staff work this out.

The issue of time management might be different in one area than another, says Jeff Galle, swine management program coordinator at John Wood Community College, Perry, Ill. He stresses the importance of dealing with this issue individually instead of  having one standard. People work at different paces, and each job has its own uniqueness.

Goals for each production stage and the business

“Throughout the hiring, orientation and training process, the operation’s goals  need to be center stage,” Tyler says. By doing this, your employees will know what you expect from them. It emphasizes the importance of working toward a goal and helps workers focus on their jobs, not on what everyone else is doing.

Tyler believes it’s the fairest way to judge a person’s performance and contribution to the operation.

In outlining goals you will need to consider those for the business, facility and individual employees. Review and update these regularly   –   semiannually is a good approach.

For example, a facility goal for the nursery could be to produce 315 pigs, weighing 70 pounds each, per week for delivery to the finishing facility at a set cost per pig.

Performance reviews/evaluations

You can break this down into two areas. The first is performance reviews. These help you track your employees’ progress throughout the year. And it gives the employee a reading of your level of satisfaction.

For new employees, it’s best to conduct a performance review at three, six and 12 months. As an employee gains experience, you can move the reviews to semiannually or annually. Never go beyond a year.

Performance reviews can be tied to salary evaluations, or you can keep them separate.

Keep the evaluation forms straightforward. Be sure to list the operation’s goals as well as past and present performance information. This also is the time to review the employees’ progress toward their specific goals.

Tyler says other areas to evaluate include such things as promptness, dependability, professionalism, work ethic and teamwork.

“I’d say 80 percent of the evaluation should be on achieving goals and 20 percent on the subjective areas,” Tyler says. “This lets you and the employee understand how the session will proceed.” The worker can then focus his or her attention on necessary improvements. It takes the pressure off of both people involved. “It also protects you if there’s ever a legal challenge as to whether an employee performed at the expected level,” Tyler adds.

“The review needs to be a valuable learning process as to where the company and employee are going,” Enns explains. Look at what the employee is doing positively and the areas where they need to improve.

Another suggestion is to sit next to the person, not across the table so they don’t feel inferior. It should be a positive discussion, not a negative interaction.

“All of these tools are important for any size operation to achieve long-term business success and long-term employment,” Galle says. “Early planning is one of the key factors in maintaining an employee’s commitment to staying in a successful operation.”

  Job Description: Breeding Unit Manager

1. Coordinates daily breeding and farrowing activities.

2. Responsible for setting and achieving production goals: matings per week, litters per week, pigs born alive, total pigs born, nonproductive-sow days, death loss, pigs sold per week, pigs sold per sow per year.

3. Responsible for operating unit within budget and tracking the following: sow replacement costs, feed costs, utility costs, veterinary services, health aids, telephone/fax costs, farm supply costs, propane costs, building repairs and maintenance, grounds maintenance.

4. Trains, motivates and reviews employees’ on-the-job performance for the unit. Teaches employees production protocols. Tests employees via written tests and on-the-job performance. Provides on-the-job leadership. Documents areas needing improvement.

5. Hires and terminates employees within the unit.

6. Assigns work schedules.

7. Maintains herd health programs, and makes herd health decisions.

8. Responsible for flow of animals into and out of unit.

9. Conducts quarterly performance reviews with breeding and farrowing employees.

10. Communicates problems and opportunities in the entire production process to general management.

11. Responsible for general unit upkeep and appearance.

12.. Maintains basic supply inventory.

Source: Heartland Pork Enterprises