Farmer Focus: Staff reviews not just box-ticking exercise

This past week at LSB, we have carried out our first ever formal staff appraisals.

They are done at the request of the Red Tractor Assurance scheme, and, despite being initially met with the all-too-frequent response of “not more paperwork”, I think it has been worthwhile.

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Rob McGregor
LSB Pigs runs 1,550 sows in two outdoor herds to produce weaners under a contract agreement. Rob manages the operation which fits into a barley and sugar beet rotation on rented land near Fakenham, Norfolk.
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We (I and one of the partners) sit down with each member of staff individually and for about an hour we discuss their role in the running of the unit, how they have been performing and where they would like their career to head.

See also: Farmer Focus: Red Tractor delivers no premium with cattle

We then set two or three objectives to be met with 12 months.

My approach has been for one of these objectives to be training-related, the second to be performance- or efficiency-linked and in some, but not all cases, a final one that is more personal.

For example, timekeeping, attendance or workspace tidiness.

Once we have said our bit, the team members get a chance to add anything. In one or two sessions, we have been set objectives by them. It is only fair that it is an open discussion, with views being shared freely across the floor.

The process has been well received by everyone so far, but I guess when next year’s review happens and the process of scoring achievements prior to setting new objectives is completed, it might prove to be more controversial.

It is about a year to the day since we started our transition from four-week to five-week weaning.

If the main objective of this was to produce a bigger, stronger piglet – better developed to cope with the stresses of weaning, transport, and a change to its housing environment – then it has delivered.

We are now well on our way to farrowing all the batches for a second time and some of the issues around batch-parity spread that the conversion created are starting to sort themselves out.

Rebreeding rates are good and born-alive figures are at 14.3. 

The one clear negative of the system is the fact we now farrow a batch, as well as wean and serve a different batch, in the space of two weeks, not three. The treadmill is now turning faster and it never slows down.