Farm employees may need more than pay


The present dairy economy is presenting a significant hardship on cash flow.

Rewards necessary

In times when money is tight, it is often difficult to reward employees for their performance in the form of cash. So, what things can dairy employers do that don’t cost a lot of money, but still let employees know their work is appreciated and valued?

If you were asked whether money was the primary factor that motivates employees what would be your response?

Many employers would be shocked to learn that good wages and job security are not necessarily the ultimate motivators.

Research results

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.

Tips given

In no particular order, here are a few suggestions you can use to show employees that their work is appreciated and valued:

— Thank your employees for the work they do and their dedication to the farm. It’s really a no-brainer, but it’s one thing many employers don’t do often enough. Best of all, it doesn’t cost a penny.

— Most employees love food. Inviting employees in for lunch each day (or occasionally) can go a long way to improving employee morale. A great home-cooked meal is always more enjoyable than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

— Allow employees to use farm equipment for a few evenings or weekends for their personal use. Maybe they need to plow a garden, use a welder, or borrow a farm truck to haul debris.

— Because of labor demands it is often difficult to do, but consider allowing employees to have time off and be more flexible in scheduling.

— Provide the opportunity for employees to use fuel or farm commodities.

— If there is an employee with a particular skill that could benefit the farm, and they desire additional training, pay their registration fees. Encourage them to receive additional training.

— Provide theme or amusement park tickets to employees to spend time with their families for a few days.

— Consider providing employees with shirts and or hats with the farm name.

— Ask your staff about ways you can improve the working environment for them. Eliminating employee dis-satisfiers such as unsafe equipment, unreasonable rules and policies, and conflict with co-workers can help employees enjoy their work more.

— Many employees would appreciate health insurance coverage, but the cost is often high. An alternative might be a health savings account. Money can be deposited into the account to provide coverage for employees and may be more affordable to the employer.

Help available

Your local Extension educator can help assist you as you develop an employee management plan. Call your local Extension office today.

Specific questions can be asked to the Ohio Ag Manager team by sending an e-mail to

This article is one of 21 Dairy Issues Briefs developed by Ohio State University Extension educators and specialists. To access all of the articles, go to and click on the “Dairy Issues Briefs” link.


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(Chris Zoller is an agricultural extension educator in Tuscarawas County and a member of the OSU Extension DairyExcel team.)



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