Pork producers continue to excel in the area of raising pigs, but sometimes struggle when it comes to handling human resources (HR) and employee management.

“Five years ago, we did some survey work and talked to some producers who told us they could do a great job of raising pigs. But training people how to raise pigs or training people how to deal with people were challenges that they identified to us,” says Jim Lummus, manager, Learning and Performance, National Pork Board.

One reason for this challenge is as operations grow, one of the last things hog farm owners deal with is human-resource management.
Plus, most small-to-medium-sized hog operations often aren’t really big enough to justify establishing HR/training departments, Lummus says.

That’s why the Pork Checkoff developed the Employee Care Toolkit, designed to be “a comprehensive resource management toolkit for pork producers,” he explains.

The human resources work done by most independent operations lines up fairly similar regardless of their U.S. location. “It starts off with a spouse or family member doing the ‘HR’ work until the operation eventually grows big enough to develop employee manuals, orientation and training materials,” Lummus says.

The toolkit offers that kind of basic information. But it also offers the ability to customize the material to individual operations that are growing staffs, but still aren’t quite large enough to develop complete HR guidelines.

Customize SOPs

The Employee Care package includes 59 standard operating procedures (SOPs) grouped by production phases. “You can customize each SOP for your farm to promote consistent performance among your workers as well as responsible management among your managers,” Lummus says.

The Managing People Workshop Packet includes everything needed to teach sow farm managers, sow farm department leaders and grow-finish managers the people skills needed to manage employees and establish an appropriate barn culture. Scenario-based courses cover solving real-life problems.

The Managing People series includes topics like workplace communication, conflict resolution, performance management and more. Easy-to-use instructor’s guides, participant guides, PowerPoint presentations and job aides are provided to help trainers implement the courses successfully, Lummus says.

“Our whole objective is to make sure we’ve got the right people in the barn doing the right thing, and that they are following the ethical principles of U.S. pork production, whether it is taking care of their pigs or taking care of their environment to produce safe food and be good members of their community,” he points out.

Lummus admits employee turnover is an ongoing challenge for the pork industry. In the past, producers weren’t very discriminate in hiring because they needed someone to fill a vacancy in their workforce. Today, producers are thinking more about working harder to get the right person to fill the right slot in their operation.

Sometimes that means the employee team needs to pull together and pick up the slack until the right hire is found. But by waiting, that new employee can hopefully become another productive member of the production team, Lummus says.

Using the Employee Care package “can help you hire, train and retain the top-notch workforce you need to respond to today’s challenges,” he explains.

To learn more about the Employee Care package, visit www.pork.org.