Here’s a question I hear all the time:
“If a new employee has experience working at another dairy, should I pay them more than someone who has no experience?”
So what’s my answer? Well, that depends.
If it’s for mid-level positions where more knowledge and experience is truly necessary, like an assistant herd manager or feeder, then my answer is yes. But if it’s for an entry level position like a milker or cow mover, then no, I don’t recommend paying more for experience.
And yes, I know… you don’t want to miss out on a really good, experienced milker because you’re not paying enough. The reality is that pay IS important. But at the same time, job seekers and employees who only care about money tend to be short-term employees wherever they go. And, in my experience, these are the types of employees that also tend to change jobs as soon as they find someone who will pay them more.
That being said, if your pay scale is competitive with other employers in your area, I still do not recommend paying more for an experienced milker. And here is why.
I hate to say it, but typically the experience that someone gets at other dairies needs to be trained out of them when they get to yours. Unfortunately, milkers pick up a lot of bad habits and misinformation at other dairies. Then when they finally get to you, these experienced employees believe things that aren’t true and do things that aren’t correct. But, since they’ve been doing it like that for a long time, they’re convinced their way is right, and your way is wrong. And here’s the kicker…you’re paying this experienced person more than someone who started from scratch and learned everything from you!
So what’s the real benefit of paying more for experience? When you hire somebody with experience, you don’t have to spend a lot of time training them and teaching the basics. And on top of that, the parlor doesn’t fall behind on their first couple of days of training. But, after the first few weeks, those initial benefits wear off and everyone’s ability starts to even out. Basically, the benefit of hiring experienced milkers is pretty short-lived. If your goal is to hire and keep milkers for the long-term, your best bet is to focus on hiring people who are willing to learn and follow your routine, without all of the bad habits.
The final reason I don’t recommend paying more for experience is a bigger deal than you might think. If a new milker comes in making more than some of the other milkers that have been with you for awhile, you’re probably going to hear about it. Although it’s nobody’s business how much everyone else makes, people talk and compare paychecks. Before you know it, you have a team of frustrated employees who no longer trust you and want more money too.
In the end, paying more to milkers with experience creates conflict and tension within your team. Sure, it might be somewhat beneficial in the short-term, but the real question is “Does it make your dairy better in the long-run?”