Performance Management

Successful businesses must find ways to get consistent, strong performance from every employee in the team. Here are the three essential practices for managing performance: SOPs, training, and feedback.

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are critical to any quality system. These policy and procedure documents lay out the regularly recurring activities performed within a business. SOPs provide organization, clarity, and consistency to a task and play a large role in setting employees up for success in their work.

When a new employee begins work on a farm, they likely have many questions. What do the leg band colors mean? How do I switch the bulk tanks? How much soap do I use to wash bottles? Rather than tracking down a manager and asking these seemingly simple questions, a new employee may make assumptions or be hesitant in their work.  Preparing these step-by-step instructions and posting them in known locations allows for a training system that develops self-sufficient and proactive employees.

To be fully utilized, SOPs must be two things. First, they need to be written in a way that is easily understood. They should be clear and to the point. SOPs also may need to be translated. It is a good idea for SOPs to include pictures of each step of the procedure followed by a short caption describing the work being done. Second, SOPs should be placed in an accessible location. For a group of procedures, such as health protocols, a binder of documents in the herd office may be appropriate. Documents that should be readily available such as milking procedure, wash station protocol, and pasteurizer instructions should be hung up on a wall in plain view. All SOP documents should be laminated.

The first step in developing a set of SOPs is to identify what procedures would benefit the most from these documents. Where is there protocol drift? Lack of consistency among employees? Positions that turn over most often is a likely place to start. Keeping in mind that SOPs describe the tasks identified in job descriptions. Start with basic procedures. Take photos of each step. Limit each procedure document to a page or two and be clear but concise. Utilize consultants and veterinarians to help develop SOPs. Once a set of SOPs has been created, let employees know they are there and that they should be followed. Only then can SOPs be used as a tool in evaluating employee performance.

SOPs are tools to clarify performance expectations and help ensure that tasks are performed consistently. The SOP Writing Guide leads you step by step to develop effective procedures for your operation. Farm Management Specialist Jessica Skellie provides an overview of why it is critical to Make SOPs Available to Employees.


Helping employees to develop knowledge and skills they need to perform at higher levels.

Growing Great People Workshops. We conducted web-based training to help employees be more effective at planning and conducting on-farm training. Recorded videos of these events are at the links below.

Performance Feedback and Incentives

Performance feedback is critical business communication to keep employees motivated, on track, and constantly improving performance. The SCORE Feedback model provides a method for giving feedback and helps supervisors develop the feedback habit. Check out this publication titled “Performance Feedback, Monitoring, and Incentives.

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