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♦ Teaching: The Lightbulb Checklist
♦ Teaching: The Lightbulb Checklist

Brenda Brady, Communications Specialist, CRI

Artificial insemination technique, synchronization protocols, heat detection, interpreting activity reports, these are clearly not easy topics or light reading, and they are vitally important to the success of your farm. So when training your employees on the above topics, give your training method the consideration and time it deserves.

If employees seem to have trouble grasping tasks, or your reproduction numbers don't reflect the effort you are putting forth, perhaps the problem is with employee training. You would certainly not be the first person to see nodding heads when you asked trainees if they understood, only to discover the lesson totally missed the mark.

In my 13 years as a high school agriculture teacher, I constantly refined my teaching methods. In fact, I'm pretty sure I never taught a lesson twice using the exact same technique! What I learned throughout all of that change is a little preparation goes a long way. here is a framework to help you become a professional in employee training in no time!

Create Engagement. Here is where you will present the why of your lesson. You will not experience success until people understand why they are doing something. How will this topic help to get your farm to your goals?

Assess Prior Knowledge. Perhaps you don't have to go into as much depth as you thought. Make sure to have the employee tell you what he or she knows about the topic. Don't allow your questions to be answered with just a yes or no.

Key Concept. Present the lesson by including all three learning styles. By using a combination of written, oral and hands-on instruction, you will hit everyone's preferred method of receiving information.

Practice. Athletes aren't good at their sport when they first start, why would you expect your employees to be great without a chance to practice?

Assess Proficiency. Ask employees to assess themselves. Have peers contribute by offering constructive criticism. Watch for understanding yourself.

Reteach. There WILL be concepts that need to be retaught. Think of another way to go about the topic. How could you change what you initially presented?

Here is an example of working through the framework using proper application of our Reveal™ livestock marker as the lesson.

Create Engagement. Begin by telling your trainees in order for a heat detection aid to be useful, it has to be durable, easy to read and cost effective. If used correctly, Reveal checks all of those boxes. If we are going to reach our pregnancy rate goal, catching heats is critical and proper application of Reveal will assist in heat detection. Once we reach our goal, we will have a catered meal, subs, pizza, etc. A little incentive goes a long way!

Assess Prior Knowledge. Ask what heat detection aids they have used in the past. Have them explain how they used the products. Then take what was explained and build on the prior knowledge. How is using Reveal similar to what they did in the past? How is it different? If they have experience using chalk, let them know that reapplication of Reveal is only needed on a touch-up basis, unlike the daily application of chalk.

Key Concept. Print off written directions on how to use Reveal and give it to employees. After they have read through the steps, talk through them while demonstrating what each step looks like. Don't skip steps. By physically showing employees, they will know exactly what you expect out of each step. Finally, give trainees a chance to try out each step, so they can get their hands on the product and ask questions while you are still close by and easily accessible.

Practice. Have your employees practice under close supervision. Provide further instruction as needed. Make sure they are applying Reveal using a forward motion, pushing the bottle towards the head of the cow. This ensure proper break-up of the paint during mounting activity.

Assess Proficiency. Do spot checks to see if the application of Reveal is correct. Have other employees who have already been trained do the same. Provide constructive criticism if needed, though make sure to give praise as well. You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar! Take note of items that need to be retaught.

Reteach. Have your employees applied the product so thick it won't break up from mounting pressure? Is the stripe too long or poorly placed? Maybe now is the time to talk economics with your employees, if you haven't already. By providing relatable examples, you may trigger understanding that did not occur the first time. A good rule of thumb for stripe size of Reveal is to compare it to the butt end of a 2 x 6 board. This goes to cost efficiency. If they reduced the stripe length by one inch on a hundred cows, they could have painted 20 more cows with the excess. Take a few photos of good examples and bad ones. Post them for a visual reminder of what you are looking for.

When evaluating a paint job, lift the tail. There is no need to have paint beyond the point where the tail bends.Too much Reveal was applied, making heat detection difficult as mounting pressure may not displace product. The stripe is also too long and painted in the wrong direction. 

April 2016