Editor's note: The following article was featured in the July/August issue of PorkNetwork magazine.

Managers of pork operations have many roles. In addition to making sure everything runs smoothly and successfully, they also make decisions, resolve conflicts and build the business.

Leading a team of people is a collaborative effort for brothers Andy and Jon White, who own and manage Rolling Meadows Farms, a farrow-to-finish and row-crop operation near Jones, Mich. They are learning how to effectively run their operation and motivate their team.

“For the day-to-day management of operations on the farm, we felt we could manage what we do really well, but when it came to managing what other people were doing, it didn’t necessarily come as naturally to us,” says Andy White. “I think that any time you manage people, you also should have some type of people management training.”

Leadership training helps develop confidence and trust within the team to support employee development. In fact, according to a Sysco Foods Engagement Study performed in 2008, an employee’s relationship with his or her direct supervisor is the No. 1 driver of keeping employees engaged and satisfied in their work.

“We hadn’t measured it, but we knew there was a fair amount of improvement that we could make in employee engagement,” says Jon White.

To help them learn how to best manage and keep their employees engaged and motivated, the White brothers invested in training through the PeopleFirst Supervisory Certificate Program offered by Zoetis. Instructors with agricultural experience in multicultural workforces use innovative training resources — delivered in a four-month comprehensive curriculum in English and Spanish — to help develop the skills needed to effectively supervise people.

“Day to day, we’re making sure that we acknowledge when our team members are doing things right to encourage them. It helps them take ownership in what they do and to stay motivated,” says Andy. “It creates a strong team to help grow the business.”

Improve Managerial Skills
Jon adds that they are continuing to implement the PeopleFirst program to expand managerial capabilities and build the feeling among the employees that what they do is important.

“It helps us value and reward that excelling performance,” says Jon. “It really allows an employee to take some level of ownership and satisfaction for doing a job and doing it well.”

Eric Farrand is marketing manager, business accounts for Zoetis, and is responsible for the PeopleFirst program.

“Sometimes, the motivation to keep up the good work is a challenge,” he says. “It’s important to recognize people and improve engagement.”

Beyond Engagement
Management team training can achieve many goals for an operation beyond increased engagement.

“Whether it’s the daily people-management issues or an employee turnover rate that may have crept up over time, the changes owners see on an operation include reduced turnover, enjoyment of their employees and improved efficiencies,” says Doug Albright, territory business manager at Zoetis. The program allows managers to take full advantage of their capabilities as leaders because they feel engaged and part of a valuable team.

Andy White said their investment in employee management continues to pay off. He and Jon are putting what they’ve learned into action every day and use the tools to maintain employee engagement. It helps them to be more efficient in everything they do.

“It’s important to invest in people, and the PeopleFirst program is designed to help producers drive encouragement,” says Farrand.

When employees are engaged in their responsibilities at work, morale goes up and when employees are motivated and excited about what they’re doing, risk goes down and insurance claims go down.

For more articles and features from the July/August issue of PorkNetwork, click here.

Editor’s Note: Watch a video at growpeoplefirst.com/testimonials to hear more tips from the White brothers on what they learned and to see comments from other producers who have participated in the program. For information on how PeopleFirst consultants can help your operation or to find a class in your area, visit growpeoplefirst.com.