Employees: Our Industry’s Most Discussed Topic

Hiring, developing and maintaining a quality workforce dominate the majority of conversations with top level livestock operation owners. ( Drovers )

Falling into the depths of irrelevance is a real fear of mine. Therefore, I regularly bounce ideas off friends. Recently, I stumbled onto the most relevant topic to the industry I have found yet. It is something many of us have a connection to and is spoken about constantly.

“I’d love to spend more time on strategic planning,” my friend said. “Unfortunately, I can’t seem to make time because I’m always stuck managing my labor force. And, it’s getting harder all the time.”

Hiring, developing and maintaining a quality workforce, as well as understanding and managing millennials, dominate the majority of conversations I have while visiting with industry professionals. Moreover, it is hardly ever written about in the beef cattle industry.

Managing people will always require more effort and personal skill development than any of us want to devote; yet, it is absolutely necessary. Without a functional workforce, our businesses will be dead in the water. Do you hire the best, train them and risk losing them to the next highest bidder? Or, do you go a cheaper route with little structure and skill development and get stuck with them? Do you build assets or maintain liabilities?


I think the answer to this revolves around your attachment to the business. If you don’t mind being married to your work, go the cheaper route. If you want to be able to function in more of a structured environment with time to work on other projects or to spend with family, invest in talent. The risk of losing a great employee that you spent years developing will always be a major part of business continuity.

However, another major component of business continuity is the development of a plan or system for finding, hiring and training replacements. It is no different than the practice of planning for transitioning from old equipment or breeding stock into new resources. Putting some time and financial investment into a systems approach to workforce management can substantially improve your effectiveness as an owner or manager.

Build Equity with your Employees

Invest in their emotional attachments to work. One of the best changes my friend made was to spend a little bit of time every week with each person individually to create a functional connectivity. This could be chute side while processing cattle, during equipment maintenance or having lunch with employees.

Ask questions about things other than work, such as family, hobbies and other topics relevant to their world. In short, show them you give a darn.

Look beyond traditional stereotypes to find hidden talents. One change I see coming is the number of highly talented women in our industry. This segment of our workforce will continue to expand. Therefore, position yourself to sort through a growing pool of substantial talent and acquire employees who might be more trainable and eager to prove themselves than your more traditional resources.