Dairy Excel: Worker motivation isn’t always money

What motivates your employees? Money, prestige, outdoor work? Do you really know?

A better question might be, why take time to check what motivates your employees?

Why? Because productivity and profitability rely upon employees being motivated to do their very best.

Motivation could simply be defined as the reason people do what they do. If a manager has some idea of what motivates employees, it goes a long way to establishing and maintaining effective relationships.

However, finding out and knowing what motivates an individual is much more difficult than it sounds.

We all know people are individuals with different feelings, concerns, wants and needs. What motivates one employee may not motivate the next or may even de-motivate (if there is such a word) someone else. Since we are working with individuals, what motivates one week could be entirely different the next.

Greed for green. Some managers think what motivates people is money. Employees are not always motivated by money.

In surveys, supervisors ranked good wages as the most important thing they wanted from their job. On the other hand, workers ranked it fifth. Since money motivates supervisors, they unfairly assume it would be the No. 1 motivator for employees, and that is not the case.

Managers also need to be aware that work values of men and women are varying. When workers were asked how important it is that their job provides a feeling of accomplishment and job security, men and women both ranked these items first and second, respectively.

But, men ranked the opportunity for high income higher than being respected by others, which is opposite of the female responses.

Motivation changes. In addition to being individuals, what motivates us changes as we move through life and career. Early career motivations will not be the same as later career motivations.

Given some of these facts, employers should discuss with their employees what motivates them and how the organization or farm can better meet their needs.

As an employer, don’t make the mistake of just throwing money at an employee’s problems in hopes of finding a solution. What motivates them may not be more money; it may be more job responsibility.

Usually the more powerful motives guide behavior, but this too can change depending on an individual’s stage of life. Employees often leave more secure positions for jobs that are more challenging and personally rewarding.

More motivation. How do managers motivate? There have been seven factors (probably more) identified to produce high-performance motivation among employees.

The first is goals. Objectives should be clear, worthwhile and challenging for employees to pursue.

Second, there should be explicit and established criteria to tell employees how successful performance will be measured.

Next, information and feedback should be shared continuously regarding goal accomplishment and reasons for success or failure.

Fourth, employees should be given the time required to complete assigned tasks and the chance to participate.

Fifth, employees should be given the resources necessary to reach their goals.

Next, employees must have the skills and knowledge required to do the job, such as training.

Last, but not least, provide reasons such as support, time recognition, autonomy and money to encourage employees to want to do the job.

There is no magic pill that will convert a regular worker into a superstar worker. Often managers need to go no further than to the employees themselves for the answer.

In summary, when providing motivation, recognize all employees are different, be creative, be flexible, be employee-driven and don’t be afraid of change. Also remember motivation is not always about money.

An employer’s philosophy might be that workers want to do their best. It is up to the management team to provide the opportunity for success.

(The author is an agricultural extension agent in Wayne County and a member of the OSU Extension DairyExcel team. Questions or comments can be to Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.)

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