Beef Tips

Category: Management Minute

October Management Minute

“Are Your Position Descriptions Saying the Right Things?”

by Justin W. Waggoner, beef systems specialist

In 2015, Millennials surpassed the Baby Boomers as the largest generation in the American workforce according to various sources. The question then becomes how you as employer or manager reach the most qualified members of this generation for your open positions. All position descriptions should be concise, including the job title, a summary of the general responsibilities and the minimum qualifications and skills required for the position. However, millennials are generally looking for more. This generation views themselves as part of a “greater good” and want to make the workplace, the community and the world a better place. Adding a brief description of the “why your company does what it does” and how this position contributes to that “why” is a great addition to a generic job description that appeals to the “greater good” this generation is looking for. Generational research indicates that millennials are also interested in the opportunity to learn and grow within a position. Given that this group is relatively new to the workforce, statements such as “5 years of previous experience preferred or required” are unattractive to those that meet the minimum requirements or have the skills but limited work experience. Millennials are generally viewed as an educated and well-connected generation that wants to know “what else they can do outside of work.” So if your organization is involved in community organizations, providing links to more information about those activities or the community might also be appealing. The ultimate goal of a job description or posting in the digital era is to generate that second “click” that leads the right person to apply for your position.

September Management Minute

“Millennials make up the Majority of the Workforce”

by Justin W. Waggoner, beef systems specialist

There are approximately five generations currently in the American workforce. These generations are somewhat loosely defined across different sources as 1) WWI and WWII generation (born ~1901-1926); 2) Mature or silent generation (born ~1928- 1945; 3) The Baby Boomers (born ~1946-1965) 4) Generation X (born ~1965-1980); 5) Millennials (born ~1980-2000) and 6) Generation Z or Centennials. All of these groups have defining characteristics, and ideals that make them unique. Recently (2015), Millennials surpassed the Baby Boomers as the largest of the generations in the American workforce according to various sources. So what are some defining traits of Millenials? This generation is generally viewed as an educated, very tech savvy group. They were raised in an environment where information via the Internet was readily accessible. In addition, they view themselves as part of a “greater good” and want to make the workplace, the community and the world a better place. This group tends to be task driven as opposed to 8-5 oriented when working, and view the balance between work and life as essential component of any position. Thus flexible work schedules or flex time in an employer are more attractive than a structured work schedule. It is obvious that not all of these traits mesh well with our traditional sense of the workplace. However, this generation is a big part of our workplace and, yes, they were most likely the kids that got a trophy or a ribbon for pretty much everything.

August 2017 Management Minute

“Five Generations in Today’s Workplace”

by Justin W. Waggoner, beef systems specialist

I recently learned that there are approximately five generations currently in the American workforce. I would add that since farmers and ranchers don’t often retire and the kids start doing chores at an early age there could possibly be up to six generations involved in the day-to-day activities of a farm or ranch. These generations are somewhat loosely defined across different sources as:

1) WWI and WWII generation (born ~1901-1926)
2) Mature or silent generation (born ~1928-1945)
3) The Baby Boomers (born ~1946-1965)
4) Generation X (born ~1965-1980)
5) Millennials (born ~1980-2000)
6) Generation Z or Centennials

All of these groups have defining characteristics and ideals that make them unique. There is tremendous amount of differences between these generations, if we consider that Granddad may have been raised in a world with limited electrical conveniences, and the millennial grandson, has never experienced a world without computers or mobile hand-held communication devices. Have you given any consideration to the different age groups or generations that currently make up your workforce? Have you updated your policies, procedures or verbal expectations to include modern means of communication such as texting? For example, if a family member or an employee is going to be late is it acceptable to send a text. If it is a more formal organization, what about training materials? Millennials and the Generation Z’s (coming soon) likely prefer and are more engaged in something they can watch over printed material.

July 2017 Management Minute

“Tell Me Something Good”

by Justin W. Waggoner, beef systems specialist

I recently came across an interesting statistic attributed to the Gallup organization that suggests that 75% of us are at some level of disengagement with life.

That essentially means that 25% of those surveyed were satisfied (happy) with where they were at in life. Does this carry over into the workplace?

Absolutely. Clint Swindall of Verbalocity Inc., a personal development company, breaks it down a bit further, “There are three types of people in an organization: 32 percent who are engaged, 50 percent who are disengaged and 18 percent who are actively disengaged. The actively disengaged people are called the ‘Oh No’s’ because they dread being asked to work. The engaged people are called the ‘Oh Yes’s’ because they will do whatever is asked of them with enthusiasm no matter what the task is.”

As humans it is really easy for us to get caught up in the negativity around us. Let’s face it…it is really difficult for most of us (75%) to see the opportunity in a given situation whether it is in our professional or personal life. What do you discuss at work or at home at the dinner table? Do you discuss the good stuff that happens during your day or the things that could have been better?

So the bigger question is what do we do about it? Clint Swindall, suggests that we replace the traditional greeting of “How are you?” with “Tell me something good.” I can assure you that you will receive some really odd looks the first time you try it. However, some people will be more than willing to share something good about what is going on at work or at home. It will take some time but maybe some of those “Oh No’s” will become “Oh Yes’s” in the workplace.

June 2017 Management Minute

“Sometimes It’s Not About the Money: Employee Recognition Programs”
by Justin W. Waggoner, beef systems specialist
We have all heard the adage that “money isn’t everything.” During the 2017 K-State Cattle Feeders College, I had the pleasure of recognizing the 18th recipient of the K- State/Merck Top Hand award. This award is presented to an exceptional feedyard employee who goes above and beyond the duties of their job description. The recipients are nominated by their respective managers for the award. The Top Hand is a simple way of saying thank you for a job well done. Employee recognition programs can be an excellent way to show your employees that you appreciate their efforts and contributions to the organization. Most sources suggest that employee recognition programs should recognize specific behaviors that are related to the organizations objectives and core values. The recognition should involve the entire organization. If you don’t have a means of recognizing exceptional employees give it some thought. You can find several great ideas for establishing an employee recognition program that will be more than just the “employee of the month” program.

May 2017 Management Minute

“Sometimes It’s Not About the Money”

by Justin W. Waggoner, beef systems specialist

If you have an employee who seems to continually be bothering you about not being paid enough, there are usually two possibilities. 1) You are a tightwad and you are not paying them enough; or 2) the person is disgruntled about their role in the organization. To find out if the answer is number 1, make a few phone calls to managers you trust in your general geography and find out what your neighbors are paying for similar jobs in your industry. If you are within 50 cents or so per hour, then move on to answer number 2. Some people are just better employees than others. If this person is worth more than the ‘scale’, you had better pay more to keep them.

But “pay” can come in many forms. You can “buy” an employee’s loyalty and general job satisfaction with many perks other than another few cents or bucks per hour. Make sure your insurance, savings investment, and/or profit sharing plans are at least in line with the industry.

This is especially important if this person has a family to look after. Non-monetary benefits include things like flexible time off. Those early mornings and long days are a lot easier to take if a person knows they can take Thursday afternoons off for a child’s ballgame or whatever.

What about goals? Have you asked your employee what they want out of this position?

They may want to move up in the organization or have opportunities for a management role elsewhere. You can be selfish about this or you can take on the role of mentor and teacher. By taking care of your employee and training them for a leadership role they will most certainly be a better employee, and will have a harder time leaving for a different job. And even if they do leave for a different opportunity, they will give such a glowing report on your leadership and team approach, you can be certain to find a good, young person to replace them.

The question you need to ask yourself is “Do you really want this person around for the long haul?” If you DO, take some time to privately evaluate your plans, and then take some more time one-on-one with this employee to find out their long-term needs and goals. If you DON’T want this person to remain in the organization, you still need to get your plans in order because after you inform this person they are not what your organization needs, you had better have a pretty good plan set up to attract a quality person to replace them.


April 2017 Management Minute

“What’s the Culture of Your Organization – Is it always Safety First?”

by Justin W. Waggoner, beef systems specialist

The data tells us that agriculture is a high risk industry, where “near misses,” accidents and even fatalities unfortunately occur. What is the culture of your organization or business? Is employee safety at the forefront? I certainly hope so.
However if it is not, how do we change that and create a culture of safety? Some say that the safety culture within an organization starts with the organization’s leaders and trickles down. Other sources indicate that training has to be a continual and ongoing process to create an organizational culture of safety. These are both correct. However with safety, it is very easy to find examples of “here is how we do it when the boss isn’t looking” and examples of great people who had the proper training and still made a bad decision. In both of these situations, the formal leaders of the organization were engaged in the process and the employees had the proper training, so how can we make progress?

Leadership is an essential component of creating a safety culture, but the formal leaders within the organization are not the leaders who are likely the greatest influencers. Safety is an everyday, in the minute issue on most operations.
Thus, the informal leaders within the organization or business are those that can have the greatest impact in creating a culture of safety. Leading by example, in those in the minute situations, is critical. Who are the informal leaders in your organization? Do they exemplify the core values of your safety culture? Identifying and engaging informal leaders is an essential and powerful component of initiating any change within an organization.

March 2017 Management Minute

“Let’s Talk About Safety”
by Justin W. Waggoner, beef systems specialist
Most of you reading this are likely involved in agriculture in some capacity. Would
you consider agriculture to be a high risk industry? The reality is that agriculture is a dangerous business. A recently released report from the U. S. Department of Labor contains some staggering statistics and emphasizes the need for safety. In 2015, farmers, ranchers and agriculture managers were the second greatest civilian occupation with regard to fatal work-related injuries; with 252 reported fatalities in 2015. Fatal injuries among agriculture workers increased 22 percent in 2015, with 180 deaths. In addition, the most frequent vehicle involved in the 253 non-roadway fatalities reported was a farm tractor. These statistics are sobering. The need for safety in our industry is real and present.
When was your last discussion about safety with your family or employees? Spring
is a great time to have those conversations. A quote from Dr. Keith Bolsen, K-State Emeritus Professor, comes to mind, “Our number one goal is to send everyone home safe at night; if an operation isn’t safe nothing else really matters.”
The full report from the U.S. Department of Labor may be accessed at


February 2017 Management Minute

“What’s Your Organization About?”
by Justin W. Waggoner, beef systems specialist
Have you ever given any thought to what your organization, farm, feedlot or
operation is really about? Do you have a mission statement, a set of core values that you believe your organization or operation em
bodies? Previously, I used to think that mission statements and core value statements were idealistic and a waste of thought. However, my attitude has changed. These statements provide the organization with a foundation, a clear objective that serves to guide the organization as it makes decisions
that hopefully move the organization forward into the future. Regardless of the size of the enterprise, putting some thought into what an organization or business is really about has value. These statements do not have to be long
or dramatic. I recently visited family livestock operation in which the sign on the
front lawn (along a major highway) simply said “Our Family Feeding Yours”. This simple statement tells everyone that drives by that this is a family operation that is foremost engaged in the process of sustaining not only themselves but other people. Why do we do what we do?
The other aspect of evaluating the purpose and objective of the operation is that
once we have identified what our purpose is. We can hopefully foster an environment among the leaders and employees based on that central purpose or ideal. The tough part comes when an effective leader comes to the realization that people or aspects of the organizations policies conflict with the mission or core values statements. What then? Well it may be time for that dreaded word C-H-A-N-G-E.

January 2017 Management Minute

“Tis the season: New Year’s Resolutions”
by Justin W. Waggoner, beef systems specialist
It’s the New Year and the popular thing to do is to “resolve to do something better” this year than last year, and in years past—not a bad idea. The problem with New Year’s Resolutions isn’t the Resolutions themselves, but maybe the motivation, or the lack thereof, behind them.
I have a friend who used to drink too much, and then drive too much. He knew on all levels this was a bad thing, but he continued anyway. But he finally quit drinking because he was diagnosed with diabetes. He made a good resolution, with effective follow-through, not just because it was a good idea—it had
always been a good idea—but because of a really good motivation. He had plenty of good, intellectual, reasons to quit this destructive behavior years ago, but it took a hard, in-your-face, reality check to make it happen.
Is that a model that we should follow? Definitely not. But it is a good metaphor for our business relationships and hard decisions that we put off until cold, hard, reality force our hand. Do we wait to do the right things only after our business is ‘diagnosed’ with serious problems, or are we proactive at seeking out discord and dysfunction in our work teams?
Only intentionality can overcome inertia. The workplace will continue to grind forward unless we invest something to intercept and alter its direction. The investment in prevention is much less than the cost of a cure down the road.