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Shic Wean-To-Harvest Biosecurity: Assessing Factors Impacting Pig Caretaker Motivation And Compliance Final Report

A study funded through the  Swine Health Information Center Wean-to-Harvest Biosecurity Research Program, in partnership with the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) and Pork Checkoff, recently evaluated caretaker motivation related to compliance with biosecurity behaviors  Led by Dr. Michael Chetta of Talent Metrics Consulting, an exploratory study was conducted to establish a baseline for worker motivation and identify the primary factors within the industry that could be impacting biosecurity compliance.

While significant resources are devoted to training personnel on the proper execution of biosecurity control measures, this study aimed to fill the gap surrounding the motivations and barriers that determine whether personnel will consistently perform the measures. This research and measurement related to motivation is the first of its kind in the industry and sets the groundwork for better understanding the social science of swine industry biosecurity.

Read the study’s industry summary here.

To conduct this study, an online survey was developed and a total of 139 animal caretakers from five pork production companies participated in the survey and formed the study’s sample population. Questions measured quantitative responses to different factors which may impact compliance such as attitude, social norm, perceived behavioral control, behavioral intent, job demands, job resources, level of exhaustion, and disengagement from work. Results suggest the swine industry’s challenge with biosecurity compliance is not wholly driven by issues with motivation. Results for attitude and job resources suggest further investigation into the rewards, supervisor support, and performance feedback categories of job resources could be promising avenues for continuing to explore what drives biosecurity non-compliance. Specifically, personnel being rewarded for following biosecurity procedures was highlighted as an opportunity.

SHIC, along with FFAR, a non-profit organization established in the 2014 Farm Bill, and Pork Checkoff, partnered to develop the Wean-to-Harvest Biosecurity Program to investigate the impact of personnel on pathogen biocontainment and bioexclusion. Research priorities emphasized comparing implementation and compliance incentives and/or rewards and their successes, shortcomings, or adoption barriers across sites or systems to help understand worker motivation to consistently execute biocontainment and/or bioexclusion protocols.   

This study highlights a novel application of Industrial and Organizational (I/O) Psychology principles to the U.S. swine industry to assess caretaker motivation to engage in biosecurity-compliant behaviors. Swine caretakers participated in the online survey, provided in both Spanish and English languages, that was developed using items, adapted or in original form, from previous research and established measures.

Initial findings of the caretaker motivation and resources study suggest the swine industry’s problem with biosecurity compliance is not a motivationally driven issue, and not wholly influenced in the way initially conceptualized and measured. There is strong support that biosecurity compliance is influenced by job resources (specifically supervisor support), availability of performance feedback and rewards. Additionally, the analyses suggest workers are heavily impacted in doing their work and adhering to biosecurity protocols by physical workload and demanding contact with animals.

There is reason to believe that motivation can be assessed differently and that the impact of training and measuring the implementation/effectiveness of biosecurity procedures could yield valuable insights. Continuing this research across the US swine industry will help to better understand the interactions and motivations behind worker attitudes and perceptions towards biosecurity adherence and to enhance positive outcomes for employees, farms, and consumers. 

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