Happy employees equal productivity


A few weeks ago, our state dairy specialist, Dianne Shoemaker, gave a preview of Ohio State University Extension’s newly revamped Bulletin 864 — “15 Measures of Dairy Farm Competitiveness.”

As we gear up for our busy spring plant season, it is a great time to highlight some of the concepts discussed in the bulletin about managing a motivated work force.

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 spring 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 that is consistent with the farm’s mission and goals. This plan will serve as a guide as employees are hired, trained and managed.

It is no secret that motivated employees are more productive.

Bernie Erven, Ohio State University 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 can not buy the devotion of their hearts, minds or souls. You must earn these.”

How are you doing?

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 spring, I encourage you to take some time in the tractor to think about the ways you can enhance the motivation and productivity of your employees.

Ask yourself

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 I improve the working environment for my employees? In what areas would I like my employees to improve and how can I help them improve?

How can I remove employee dissatisfiers such as unsafe equipment, unreasonable rules and policies and conflict with coworkers? How can I 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 (a big reward given today’s fuel prices), 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 a employee management plan.

The new “15 Measures of Dairy Farm Competitiveness” bulletin is also now available both online and as a for-sale publication. The full-color, 50-page publications can be ordered through your local Extension office or can be accessed at http://dairy.osu.edu.

Good luck as you begin your spring planting, and remember to keep employee management a top priority. The investment you put into your employees today will reward you in the future.


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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.



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