Pork producers should use their astute observation skills to manage employees, says Don Tyler, employee management consultant from Clarks Hill, IN.

"Anyone who has survived the last 10 years in livestock production has good observation skills," he says. "Those skills are something we can apply to different areas, like employees."

People fall into several personality categories. Two key factors in determining their personality are their motor and compass, Tyler says.

The motor determines whether a person is fast or slow-paced. Some individuals think, talk and work quickly, while others are more methodical in their approach. A person's compass gravitates him/her to either people or tasks.

"Once we understand this, we have a lot of insight into what the employee will respond to. We know how they are going to act, how we should give instructions, what kinds of words we use, how fast we talk, how much time we spend with them and where our focus is when we talk to with them," Tyler says.

For example, a fast-paced, task-orientated-worker may only need basic instruction to complete a new task. Staying on schedule may be important to this individual, and spending too much time receiving instruction throws off his routine, Tyler explains.

A people-orientated individual may need other workers around to keep him focused, even though he may work quickly.

Reserved, task-orientated workers may be slower and more methodical, but still accomplish a significant amount of work while working alone in the AI lab or breeding barn. Their instructions need to reflect their speed and focus. Reserved workers thrive on caring for stock in the nursery and farrowing barns. They may not be as quick, Tyler says, but they are sincere, steady workers who get the job done.

Handling Conflict Tyler outlines a four-step plan to handling conflicts with or between employees. Here are four steps to facilitate a discussion and resolution of the problem:

1. Identify the conflict with this observation, "It sounds like you are upset."

2. Validate the emotions. Tell the employee they have a right to be upset.

3. Personalize the issue. "You know, if I were in your shoes, I'd probably be upset, too."

4. This step allows for discussion of the situation and a search for a reasonable solution. "I'm sure if we discuss this a little bit, we can find a solution."

Tyler stresses that employers listen to and hear out employees experiencing personal problems. It is important that the employer not become part of the solution. Instead, he or she should guide the employee to more qualified people or agencies. The employer is not likely to have the necessary resources and could become too personally involved.

Developing a list of resources can help employees who are not familiar with the community. The list can include clergy, financial and family counselors, insurance agents and banks, for example.

Documentation Documentation of employee handbooks, job descriptions, evaluation forms or procedures is extremely important. Anything that requires a form or any process that happens on a frequent basis should be written down, Tyler says.

An employee handbook is necessary to spell out key policies. Examples include the sexual harassment, at-will employment and personal conduct policies.

Tyler points to sexual harassment as the industry's greatest legal vulnerability. The industry's emphasis on reproductive activities, having a co-ed workforce and unisex shower-in/shower-out facilities may foster a potential harassment situation.

The at-will employment statement is necessary to inform employees if they are "employed at will." That means they can quit or can be terminated at any time and are not under a contract.

Another key document is a personal conduct policy. The employee needs to recognize that his/her off-duty actions reflect on the employer.

Spelling out that an illegal activity may have consequences up to and including termination heightens employees' awareness about their actions.

Job Description, Evaluation Job descriptions are extremely important because both parties need to know what is expected of employees. The description should fit the position, not the person in the position, Tyler says.

For positions at the top of the employee ladder, goals should be clearly stated. For example, the facility manager may have a 23 pigs/sow/year goal. The manager's job description, however, would include general statements like "works to improve production and maximize the unit's potential." This gives the manager opportunity to express his/her management style and personal abilities.

As job descriptions move down the ladder, they should be stated in a more specific manner.

The main purpose of performance evaluations should be to clarify and reinforce specific expectations of the employee. It is best to use a standardized form developed by each producer for his/her operation.

When evaluations are goal-focused, producers need written operating procedures to provide specific details on how to achieve production goals in each production area.

Goals based on production figures allow employees to continuously monitor their own progress, Tyler says.

About 60-70% of the evaluation should focus on achieving production goals. The remaining 30-40% can include attitude, neatness, dependability, working with others, etc.