Dairy farms managers often push staff meetings aside for the sake of “getting things done” however, sometimes formal meetings with staff are essential to communicate and problem solve.
No one wants to have a meeting for the sake of having one. So, when you decide to have a meeting with your employees, keep a few of the following suggestions in mind.
Before the Meeting
First, determine what it is that you want accomplished with the meeting and why it’s needed, otherwise known as the “desired outcome”. For example, is it the explanation of an updated procedure, is it to conduct a training, or to brainstorm a solution for a problem that is occurring on the dairy farm?
Next, as the manager you need to determine who needs to be at the meeting. This can be tricky since dairies and employees often operate around the clock, 365 days a year. You may need to hold more than one meeting to accomplish your desired outcome or get input from all parties involved. You may also consider offering compensation to employees to attend the meeting if you hold it during their free time.
Be prepared and get organized ahead of time. This will increase your efficiency and also help you be a more-effective manager. Post or provide an agenda prior to the meeting for those involved in it, this will let your employees know what will be discussed and what may be expected of them. It is also fair to let employees know how long the meeting might take so they may plan accordingly. Establish ground rules for the meeting, such as cell phone usage, food and snacks, along with management of discussion and input from employees. Another consideration might be the need for an interpreter if there are any language barriers. This will take some prior planning and scheduling, especially if you have to go outside of the dairy for this service. Next, you may consider writing the main points of the meeting on a flip chart to document and draw attention to major ideas or tasks.
During the Meeting
It is extremely important to stay on task and keep on time. This may involve refocusing conversations if necessary, and following the established agenda. Keep it short and to the point. How many times have you been to a meeting and someone is late getting there? Make sure your employees know what time the meeting will start, and then ensure that you start at the stated time. Do not reward latecomers by waiting for everyone to arrive or recapping what you have already covered. This will increase the length of the meeting and increase the time your staff is away from their regular activities.
Just like any other business meeting you attend, minutes should be taken so there is a record of what was presented, timelines, action items and delegated responsibilities. It may not be effective for you to try to present and keep notes during the meeting. Utilize staff, a voice/video recorder or another means to keep the flow of the meeting going as well as keeping notes. These meeting minutes should be distributed in a timely manner to those in attendance, along with identifying who is responsible for following up on the various action items.
Informal vs. Formal
It is important to note the difference between an informal and a formal meeting. Informal meetings happen on a regular basis, without most people realizing what is going on. An example is a conversation that takes place around the coffee pot or in the lunchroom. Issues are discussed and feedback is often given. They often happen on a one-on-one basis or within a small group and can be a great way to help provide feedback (good and needed areas for improvement) as a situation happens or is brought up. The downside of informal meetings is if a situation or message needs to be communicated to a larger group of employees than are present at the given time. The message probably will not be relayed, at least not accurately. Think of the game “Telephone” where you start by telling the person at one end of the line a message and then pass it down the line. A majority of the time the end message is different than the beginning message. Therefore, when a uniform message or group brainstorming session needs to be held, make sure all necessary parties are present and at the “table”.
After the Meeting
Once the meeting is completed take time to evaluate it and determine if you completed your desired outcome. If so, then KUDOS to you, if not then ask yourself, “What can I do better next time?” Meetings are expensive due to the time taken away from performing job tasks, especially if they do not serve their purpose or accomplish the desired outcomes. But on the flip side they can also be time and money well spent, so make them count.