Everyone needs a little motivation

This is the time of year there never seems to be enough hours in the day to get all the work on a dairy farm accomplished.
Spring starts with planting the crops and getting the first cutting of hay up. Then it rolls right into summer with the second and third cuttings, wheat harvest and straw baling.
These seasonal activities are added onto an already long list of daily tasks.
Motivation. Often, it is this extremely busy workload that causes employers to begin asking the question, “How do we motivate employees and keep them motivated to accomplish the farm’s goals?”
This is not an easy question to answer.
Motivation comes from within and is an individual attribute. Two employees may say similar things, but their true motivation will show through in their actions.
For some, simply completing the job is enough to motivate them to get the job done and done well. Others may need a carrot at the end, such as incentive pay or recognition.
It is important for managers to know their employees and understand what forms of motivation they respond to.
Even though motivation is individual, there are a few concepts employers should think about to help motivate and maintain employee motivation.
Interest. The work itself can be a tool in employee motivation. Jobs should be designed to match the employee’s interest and skills.
For example, those who like working with animals should have jobs such as milking or calf care. It is also important to design jobs so one person has responsibility for the entire job.
For example, rather than just feeding calves, the employee should be responsible for all aspects of raising the calves. By giving responsibility, employees feel more invested in their job. Encourage them to share ideas on how to make improvements.
They should be given the opportunity to become the expert in their area of responsibility.
Communication. Open communication is important to everyone. Rarely do we hear anyone say there is too much communication – normally a problem arises as a result of too little communication.
Bulletin boards/dry erase boards, personal communication and farm meetings are just a few ways to aid communication. When employees are a part of the loop, they feel more connected to the farm as a whole.
This will also help them to understand how their job fits into the bigger picture and its importance to the overall operation of the farm.
Communication also can come in the form of job performance feedback. It is important to provide timely feedback on the employee’s performance.
Even when the employee needs to make improvements, feedback can be a motivator when handled in a positive manner.
The employer should help the employee learn from their mistakes and understand how to do their job better.
Praise. Don’t overlook letting employees know when they have done a good job. When you see someone do something well, take a couple of minutes to commend them on a job well done. Positive reinforcement is a proven motivator.
Lack of motivation is not the problem behind inadequate performance every time. Employees may not have the proper equipment or training. Providing the right equipment in good working condition and the needed training are critical components of getting the job done to meet employer expectations.
Expectations. Another important question the employer should ask themselves is, “Do my employees know and understand what my expectations are?”
Employers need to take the time to explain their job expectations, as employees need to know what their employer considers to be a job well done. There are few things more frustrating than not knowing what is expected of you.
Think about when a teacher gives a writing assignment to the class. The first things students want to know are when the paper is due, how long it needs to be, how many references are needed and what the grading scale is.
Basically, what the students want to know is what the teacher’s expectations of an “A” paper are. Employees feel much the same way. They want to know what the employer’s expectation of high quality work is and by what standards their work will be measured.
They also need to know what the consequences are if they fail to meet the employer’s expectations.
Consistency. One other important point for employers to remember is consistency. Both rewards and consequences should be implemented in a consistent manner.
Employees need to know the consequences will be the same for everyone who fails to meet expectations, and rewards will be earned by all those who meet the goals.
Employee motivation is a complex issue and the above discussion is just the tip of the iceberg. As overwhelming as it may seem, there is an easy place to start.
Thanks. At the end of the day, one of the most important things to remember is to say thank you. Whether it is a nonfamily employee, family member, spouse or child, everyone wants to feel appreciated.

About the Author

(Julia Nolan Woodruff is an OSU extension educator in Ashland County.) More Stories by Julia Nolan Woodruff

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