Liability Insurance Contributing Columnist


Employees: One of Your Best Risk Management Tools

Jen Pino-Gallagher
Director of Food & Agribusiness Practice
M3 Insurance

December 29, 2023


There is no shortage of staffing shortages in dairy processing plants around the country. A survey conducted by the Dairy Food Safety Alliance with dairy sanitation inspectors from the Midwest and New Mexico revealed these shortages are not merely causing workforce gaps but are also leading to food safety violations.

In the survey, the dairy inspector respondents shared the most common violations encountered in dairy plant inspections:
• Plant cleanliness;
• Construction and repair of equipment;
• Protection from contamination; and
• Sanitation of containers and equipment.

The common denominator leading to these infractions? More often than not, the root cause of the infractions were employees – either the lack of employees (labor shortages) or lack of training for new employees. Even dairy processing plants that appeared fully staffed lacked employee training, which directly impacts food safety practices. Being fully staffed doesn’t necessarily mean “fully skilled”.

Staffing shortages in dairy plants is not a new challenge. And, over the past several years, leadership at dairy processing plants have taken a number of steps to overcome these issues. According to the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, some of the approaches processors have taken include:
•Increasing investments in automation, both as a workaround to the ongoing labor shortage and to improve their workers’ experiences and their plants’ overall productivity.
•Paying more: Industry wages, on average, rose faster than inflation in the immediate post-COVID period. Dairy processors are directly investing in their workforce to attract and retain leaders who can help their businesses grow.
•Devoting more resources to effective training programs and accessing training opportunities through vendor partners.
Considering the critical importance of food safety to the operation, it’s vital that there is open communication between food safety leadership and human resources about the impact of staffing shortages.

Human resources teams looking to find support in recruiting and retaining team members can consider a sometimes overlooked source of help – their employee benefits broker. While this may not be the first approach that comes to mind, there is value in engaging with the company’s employee benefits broker and including the broker as part of the recruitment and retention team.

A benefits broker can be a partner in strategizing how to recruit, retain, and engage talent. From a recruitment perspective, questions to ask a broker in order to engage their services might include:
- How do our benefits compare to similar organizations? Are we competitive in the marketplace?
- What unique benefits exist that might help us attract and retain multi-generational team members.
- Are their resources outside the insurance realm such as grants, non-profit organizations and training resources that can enhance our workforce development efforts?

Transitioning from overcoming staff shortages, once a dairy processor has successfully attracted talent to the plant, the next step is retaining those staff members. Some of the more common retention strategies deployed include:
• Understand the different needs between generations – especially regarding benefits.
• Communicate benefit opportunities through a multichannel approach based on your employee demographics.
• Be intentional about connecting with a culturally diverse workforce. This may include engaging with linguistic and cultural experts to identify how to connect with a multi-cultural, non-English-speaking workforce.

No simple solution exists to resolving the labor challenge. By taking a team approach and combining the input from food safety, human resources and the benefits broker, the dairy processor increases the likelihood of winning the war for talent

Jen Pino-Gallagher is director of the food and agribusiness practice at M3 Insurance. M3 Insurance offers insight, advice and strategies to help clients manage risk, purchase insurance and provide employee benefits. The views expressed above do not necessarily reflect those of Cheese Reporter. You can contact the columnist by calling (800) 272-2443, or by visiting


Jen Pino-Gallagher

Jen Pino-Gallagher is a Director of Food & Agribusiness Practice at M3 Insurance. M3 Insurance offers insight, advice and strategies to help clients manage risk, purchase insurance and provide employee benefits.
For more information, call (800) 272-2443 , visit

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