You’ve heard about the courses out there… animal welfare, feeding management, biosecurity, people management, OH&S… the list goes on but frankly, the inconvenience associated with staff training never seems to diminish much.
It usually means key people off-site at the very time you need them most. In fact, you can almost guarantee that the day your mill manager is away on a preventative maintenance course will be the day a roller shaft snaps. (Funnily enough, it’s also the day you discover that his offsider has trouble telling the difference between a feed mill roller and a rolling pin…) All-in-all a good day on the feedlot…
Then there’s the cost. Training can have an unhappy impact on the hip pocket, especially if it involves multiple staff and is accompanied by meals, accommodation and travel costs. (You write out the cheque, gritting your teeth and praying that the five star price tag delivers five star training quality)
And finally, you just know that after you’ve shelled out the dollars, and coped with all the day-to-day disruption, you’ll discover that the staff member doing that ‘must do’ course hasn’t handed in an assignment for six months…
It’s enough to make any self-respecting lot feeder swear off training forever.
So is training really worth it? The arguments against it seem pretty powerful, but, before you declare … ‘Never again, not on this place… not ever!!!’ and reflect happily on your capacity for assertive leadership you might just want to consider the case for the training of your staff.
The unpleasant facts…
The inconvenient truth is that without good training your feedlot runs the risk of:
Loss due to staff mobility. Let’s face it, feedlot staff often have itchy feet. One day your office manager is Ms Reliable and the next day she’s off for a sea change… and she’s taken her mission critical skill set with her. “Who else here knows how to use FY3000?” you bellow across the office as the new girl from Brisbane checks her nails.
Prioritised training, along with the cross skilling of co-workers is a critical component of succession planning.
Losing its competitive edge. Effective training equips your staff to do things better, faster and with insight into the theory behind the practice. Across the entire enterprise, from office to feed bunks, it can mean the difference between sweet profits and economic ruin.
Perpetuating poor practice. Feedlot workers who have come through the ranks typically do the job the way they learned it and that’s what they pass on to new hands. That’s good if the way the job is done is top shelf. But it often impedes continuous improvement and innovation and could leave the feedlot in a retro time warp.
Exposure to catastrophic failure. Systematic and prioritised training can prevent catastrophic loss. For example, poor management of heat stress events; damage to critical plant and systems and the loss of life and limb through poor OH&S practice could result in the failure of the operation. Training can prevent this happening.
Similarly, if those young backpackers you just put on in the yard don’t understand the fundamentals of the humane treatment of animals are you risking enterprise shutdown due to animal welfare violations?
Obviously it may not come to this, but we all see the potential.
It is worth noting at this point, that training can add buoyancy to the enterprise. Staff should come back better equipped for their role. It should result in the infusion of fresh ideas and an enthusiasm for innovation. It can, in the right circumstances, enhance organisational culture.
Further it is a QA tool. A training qualification typically assures feedlot management that the worker they are about to employ has the required skill set and has successfully undergone a structured learning program specifically designed to equip them for the role they will perform in the feedlot.
A strategic approach to training…
Like everything else on a feedlot, training requires a strategic approach. You have to think ahead. Consider:
- Industry direction. Where is the feedlot industry in Australia heading? For example, what legislative imperatives are emerging in
relation to animal welfare, OHS, biosecurity etc.? What industry initiatives are emerging in terms of livestock management, feeding regimes, environmental
Training needs to equip the enterprise, and workers within it, to address compliance requirements and to take timely advantage of innovations shaping the industry.
- Enterprise need. Start with a needs analysis. Identify the skill gaps across the enterprise and within each feedlot division and then
research training options most likely to address these needs.
- Development of a staff professional development/training plan which is cognizant of enterprise need, leave scheduling,
staff turnover and skill deficits etc.
- The plan must be backed by budgetary allocations and address deficits.
- Further, it needs to address the imperative for succession planning and the need to continuously improve systems and processes.
- Finally it requires that the outcomes of training be mapped against milestones and performance indicators. You need to know if the training has yielded its intended outcome.
- Individual worker needs and strengths. Staff profiling enables identification of staff skill sets and knowledge strengths and deficits. It is important that training dollars not be wasted on equipping a staff member with little aptitude for the required skill set. Training must deliver a return on investment and generate corporate capacity.
And so there we have it. Training provision can be a pain. It can be inconvenient and expensive. But the imperative for it has never been greater within the lot feeding industry and, if addressed strategically, training can deliver enormous benefit.