How should producers recruit and train new staff during the pandemic?
Interviews can be done remotely, and in fact many companies already use this as a first interview technique. So in theory you can still run the interview and candidate selection process successfully. The real question is whether or not now is the best time to be bringing new people in to your company and there will be difficulties of movement (if for example your chosen candidate is from another country). During a pandemic such as the one we are in now it is perhaps better to focus on training your current staff. CPD, reskilling and/or upskilling to allow / increase the ability to have staff that can multi-skill and be rotated around different positions/skills. Training can be done remotely if it is well planned and thought through. Indeed for staff that are at home or with reduced roles now is an ideal time to provide training as long as it is planned out (don’t go mad!) and done with a proactive approach to future business needs and it fits with furloughing guidelines.
Are there any technologies which can support the training of new staff during the pandemic?
Yes, lots. It has to be online learning at the moment but there are plenty of options. Remote learning through the internet using a platform such as Zoom or webinars (and there a number of them to choose from) can be very successful, it allows live interaction with the tutor and generally works best if used with small groups. Remote learning benefits from having a mixture of ‘teaching’, discussion, and practice of the learning points. There is also the option of E-learning where materials produced by an expert in the topic are accessed via a computer, tablet or smartphone. There is no live component but staff can learn at their own pace. There is some training that is difficult to do without actually getting onto the farm, however remote camera access to houses can be used as training aids to show different aspects of livestock management and behaviour.
What are the pros and cons of remote training for poultry producers?
Pros: reduced costs, reduced time away from ‘desk’. Cons: lack of interaction, lack of practical aspect. Some training cannot be completed remotely and needs to be done in the poultry house such as selecting males, grading, adjusting feeder and drinker heights, egg selection – really anything that involves contact with the livestock and what they produce, this is the same for hatcheries for example training in egg breakout analysis. To encourage interaction remote training is generally better when done with small groups and in short sessions, this may increase the number of training sessions required for a given team size.
What remote training tools are available to poultry producers and what are the pros and cons of each?
The key to any successful training is to make it as interactive as possible. With remote learning interaction is more difficult to achieve so anything that increases the interaction between the participants themselves, and between the participants and the tutor is good. And there are a number of tools available that can help with this, some are included within online platforms and some are standalone apps. A voting application or the ability to set up a poll which can be sent out during the session is a helpful way to create interaction. Also a chat function which allows participants to interact directly and privately with the tutor is a good method to encourage interaction. Some platforms also allow you to create breakout rooms where participants can be split into smaller groups for practical sessions or feedback sessions. In-house cameras can be really helpful as a training aid as they allow discussion and review of a situation in real-time, but they only provide visual and possibly audio information.
Poultry producers are already well trained in biosecurity measures, but what additional measures should they take now during COVID-19?
None of the normal best practice biosecurity measures should suffice. So what is important is to make sure that you have good biosecurity practices in place and that they are being followed. This is an ideal time to re-train staff in what is good biosecurity and its importance. Staff health and welfare and biosecurity has become more key so procedures such as frequent/increased hand washing and disinfection, wearing a face mask at all times, reducing contact with delivery personnel and non-farm employees and maintaining social distancing rules where possible are key. These sorts of biosecurity measures should also be employed in staff accommodation and facilities.