Employee satisfaction key to success


I cannot believe how fast the summer of 2010 has passed. As the days become shorter and corn silage harvest begins, each of us will have more on our plates as we rush to get our harvest completed while juggling the daily dairy chores.

Operating a highly competitive dairy requires the talents of many people, especially when field and dairy operations are being conducted simultaneously. As we juggle the many hats that fall offers, it is imperative that personnel management not be shelved for the season.

Competitive operations understand that personnel management is a major key to profitability. Personnel managers should take time to examine the five functions of management (planning, organizing, staffing, directing and controlling).

They also need to develop a human resource plan which is consistent with the farm’s mission and goals. This plan will serve as a guide as employees are hired, trained, and managed.

Motivational factors

It is no secret that motivated employees are often more productive. Bernie Erven, OSU professor emeritus, has often cited an employee paradigm that states: “You can buy people’s time: you can buy their physical presence at a given place, you can even buy a measured number of their skilled muscular motions per hour. But you cannot buy the devotion of their hearts, minds or souls. You must earn these.”

How are you doing in keeping your dairy employees motivated? Have you taken time to ask your employees what motivates them? Many employers would be shocked to learn that good wages and job security are not necessarily the ultimate motivators.

A study conducted by George Mason University showed the top three motivators for employees were interesting work, appreciation, and feeling in on things. Surprisingly, good wages only ranked fifth.

Bottom line, you won’t know what motivates your employees until you ask! This fall, I would encourage you to take some time in the combine to think about the ways you can enhance the motivation and productivity of your employees.


Are job duties and expectations clearly defined? Do I need to develop an employee handbook? Is coaching and instruction given at opportune times? Do we hold employee meetings? How can I increase the skills of my employees?

Do you personally thank staff for a job well done? In what ways can you improve the working environment for your employees? In what areas would you like your employees to improve and how can you help them improve? How can you remove employee dis-satisfiers such as unsafe equipment, unreasonable rules and policies and conflict with co-workers?

How can you encourage and reward initiative and new ideas? Some employees are internally motivated while others are motivated by external rewards. By listening to employees, you can develop strategies to reward and motivate them.


Some of these strategies could include: verbal praise, free meals, work uniforms, annual salary increase, free gas, tickets to a ball game, unexpected paid time off, bonuses, flexible work schedules special gifts for special occasions, and extra vacation days.

And never forget how far a sincere thank you or compliment can go for any employee (including family members). Your local Extension Educator can help assist you as you develop an employee management plan.

The 15 Measures of Dairy Farm Competitiveness bulletin also provides tips on how you can increase your competitiveness. It is available both online and as a hard copy publication at a cost. The full-color, 50-page publication can be ordered through your local Extension office or can be accessed online at http://dairy.osu.edu.

Good luck as you begin your fall harvest and remember to keep employee management as a top priority. The investment that you put in to your employees today will reward you in the future. Have a good and safe fall!

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth would pause to say, Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

(The author is an assistant professor and Agricultural and Natural Resources Extension educator in Ashtabula County. He can be reached at 440-576-9008 or marrison.2@osu.edu.)


Up-to-date agriculture news in your inbox!

Previous articleProgram helps plant cover crops
Next articleConservation Reserve Program deadline of Aug. 27 is sneaking up
David Marrison is an associate professor and Extension educator, Agriculture & Natural Resources, Ohio State University Extension. He can be reached at 740-622-2265 or marrison.2@osu.edu.



We are glad you have chosen to leave a comment. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated according to our comment policy.

Receive emails as this discussion progresses.