ALBANY — Millennials, those born after 1982, will soon make-up 50% of the workforce. This generation, often misunderstood and identified as being lazy, was raised on grading rubrics. Every performance expectation and academic milestone was carefully spelled out, clearly outlining the necessary steps to achieve an ‘A’ or just get by with a ‘D’. When millennials fell short, a parent, teacher, or mentor coached them to success.
Farm owners and managers in need of more than ‘D’ performers must also integrate the use of grading rubrics and coaching strategies to ensure the success, growth, and development of their employees. According Dr. Robert Milligan, Professor Emeritus from Cornell University and consultant at Dairy Strategies LLC, every successful employee needs clear responsibilities, performance expectations, and an improvement plan. Just as the Kindergarten grading rubric spelled out the standards for exceeding counting standards, managers must carefully spell out and measure the standards for success on their farms.
Managers and owners have the responsibility of facilitating employee success through continuous monthly performance measures. A simple excel spreadsheet could serve as a performance grading rubric for employees. As displayed in Table 1, the left hand column represents jointly agreed upon performance measures. Next room exists for the expected and actual performance. A 12 month rubric provides opportunity for monthly discussion and corrective actions of performance.
Monthly discussions of performance measures provides both managers and employees with opportunities to communicate and assess business performance. As stated by Erica Leubner, a personal consultant with New York FarmNet, “Lack of effective communication is the number one reason (I have observed) why farm businesses experience conflict and dysfunction”. Clearly stated performance measures are the first step in effective communications with family and non-family members.
The performance evaluation and communication process breeds accountability and success for the entire organization. Similar to the kindergarten grading rubric, employees (family and or non-family) need clear responsibilities, performance expectations, and an improvement plan. The role of the farm manager/owner is to coach the employees, including the often misunderstood Millennials, to success.
—Sheila Marshman and Erica Leubner
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