Denise Coolman, Bollich, Patricia A., Braud, Emily
FARMERVILLE – Richard Davis, human resource manager for the Pilgrim’s Pride poultry producing plant here, hopes an LSU AgCenter program will teach his staff skills that will cut down employee turnover at the plant.
An LSU AgCenter team is teaching the supervisors and line leaders about "workplace ethics."
The program involves lessons on how people can strengthen character by modeling trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. It involves a set of seven activity-based lessons, which are rooted in those pillars of character, as well as a final lesson on decision-making.
The workplace ethics lessons deal specifically with ethical issues related to business and industry and is one part in an overall character education effort that has been conducted statewide by the LSU AgCenter over the past several years. Additional information, which is designed to help businesses incorporate the basic character lessons throughout an organization, includes such topics as team building, dealing with difficult people and communication.
An LSU AgCenter team led by Dora Ann Hatch, LSU AgCenter community economic development agent, trained 40 workers at Pilgrim’s Pride recently. LSU AgCenter agents will return in April to teach another set of workers.
"We want to help them learn how to create a workplace atmosphere that promotes ethical standards," Hatch said.
The LSU AgCenter has a team of agents and specialists – known as its Community Economic Development Team – that is helping communities all over Louisiana with workplace issues.
Led by Dr. Deborah Tootle in the LSU AgCenter’s Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, the team works to promote sustainable economic development in Louisiana.
The team is working on a variety of efforts, including educational programs that focus on business retention and expansion, workforce development and leadership. It also is working on programs designed to develop new businesses based on the state’s natural resources.
Pilgrim Pride’s Davis said he first learned about the LSU AgCenter program from Louisiana Rep. Hollis Downs, R-Ruston. After learning more about the program, Davis said it looked like something his staff needed to help them retain workers.
"I’m already getting good feedback from the first group that went through the training," Davis said. "They’ve told me that they believe what they learned will be beneficial in reducing the amount of turnovers and absences by workers."
LSU AgCenter agents are taking that work with the Union Parish employer even further. Carol Remy, an LSU AgCenter 4-H agent in Union Parish, is giving a tour of the Pilgrim’s Pride facility on April 13 for school teachers in the parish who teach students about careers.
"During the tour we will inform them of the economic impact Pilgrim’s Pride has on our parish and the state," Remy said. "Pilgrim’s Pride personnel also will discuss career opportunities and benefits available in the Pilgrim’s Pride Co. We want teachers who are teaching careers to our high school youth to be knowledgeable of the opportunities in our parish."
Remy said she hopes the tour will help Pilgrim’s Pride management obtain and retain a stronger workforce.
Downs praised the LSU AgCenter staff for its work in helping decrease the turnover at the plant.
"This is a very critical issue," Downs said. "I really like the thought and planning that went into this tour, as well as the workplace ethics classes."
Poultry is a big business in Union Parish. According to the 2002 Summary of Agriculture and Natural Resources produced by the LSU AgCenter, the total gross farm value for poultry in Union Parish was $106,678,063.
Union Parish is a rural parish in North Louisiana. The latest census figures show the parish has a population of 22,869 people with 18.6 percent of the population living below poverty level. The last reported median household income was $29,061, and the last reported per capita income average was $14,819.
To find out more about the workplace ethics and other programs on economic development offered by the LSU AgCenter, go to www.lsuagcenter.com or call your parish LSU AgCenter office.