Coaching Tip: Working on a Holiday has Challenges and Opportunities

Dr. Bob MilliganDr. Bob Milligan offers a full range of employee management and training services for dairy farm owners and managers through his Learning Edge and Dairy Strategies organizations based in Lauderdale, Minn. He may be reached at [email protected] or by phone at 651 647-0495.

I was wondering what proportion of the total workforce works on special holidays like Christmas and New Year Days. It has to be very small. Most people would think of emergency room doctors, nurses, police/fire personnel, and perhaps airline pilots. We know also that any farm producing milk, beef, pork, or other livestock products has employees working.

Let me suggest some ways you might consider to lighten the load for those who must work:

  • As with everything, planning is key. Make plans so that only tasks that absolutely must be done on the holiday are assigned. I know I would be pissed if I had to work on a holiday doing tasks that could have been done in advance or later. Even better, engage your employees in planning so they better understand what must be done on the holiday and have ownership in the plan.
  • Speaking of planning, work with your employees to schedule shifts and tasks, to the extent possible, so employees do not miss important religious services or family events. Communicating with employees this desire can be powerful both in intent and in deed.
  • Arrange to do something special for those who work. It could be providing hot chocolate or cookies or fruit or something ethnically appropriate. Be certain to say, "thank you!"
  • You have earned and deserve to be with you family; however, if you are near the farm and have a few minutes, take the time to say hello, thank them for being there, and maybe deliver the treats mentioned in the previous item.
  • As those who work leave or when they next return to work, express your appreciation for their working on a holiday.
  • Christmas and New Years are paid holidays for most employees and often time and a half or double time for hourly employees who must work. You may want to consider similar adjustments to your compensation policies. Early in my Cornell employment, I was asked to provide some suggestions for the dairy facility. I remember asking how they get employees to work on Christmas. The answer was that there was no problem because they were paid triple time.

Full steam ahead.