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5 ways to motivate farm employees: Part one

5 ways to motivate farm employees: Part one

Use goals, training and expectations to keep good employees.

Podcast Link:

Good farm employees are hard to find, and even harder to keep.

It seems that today, people just don't have the work ethic they used to. But you, as a farm manager, have a role to play too.

The default training system of many farmers is to throw an employee in a tractor and tell them to go. But that doesn’t make the employee successful, confident, or motivated.

Believe it or not, it’s easy to motivate people—if you have the right plan. Use these 5 strategies to keep work morale and ethic high on your farm.

1) Set goals, both personal and professional, with your employees

The One-Minute Manager gives you a good system for making employment clear for your employees.

If you use no other strategy, at least use this one.

Start with a five-year goal. Find out where your employees want to be, not just in finances, but in “health, wealth, love, and happiness.”

Since every decision they make impacts their goals, they’re going to be motivated towards them. So understand their goals, and that will help you align their work with those goals, which brings me to my next point...

2) Align their goals with doing high-quality work for you

If one of their goals is financial and they want to be bumped up, offer an incentive. Maybe Steve’s making $15/hour now, but tell him that if he puts in four weeks of quality work, you’ll knock that up to $15.25.

Here’s another example. I’ve got one employee who loves to work out. I talked to him during harvest last fall, and he was stressed out because he didn’t have time to go to the gym.

I said, “Obviously, getting to the gym is one of your goals, so as we’re getting into the busy season, if you’re willing to work a little extra into the evenings, I’ll schedule somebody every other day so you can work out 3-4 days a week.”

He worked the same amount of hours in a week, but the hours shifted. It was a win-win: I got a more effective employee, and he was happier to do the work.

3) Create training and certification programs for all the processes you want your employees to partake in

Remember, if an employee fails or makes a mistake, it's your fault. Either he was mis-trained, or the communication wasn’t clear. You might get a couple of klutzes, but most are capable of doing the work with the right guidance.

So train them. Make sure they know how to start up each tractor safely, and how to accomplish the checklist. For example, have them check the oil daily and tire pressure once every week, write that down, and turn it into you. That way, you set up a system and keep them accountable to it.

4) Create clear expectations of the job and what is required to successfully perform it

I’ll keep this step simple: read The One-minute Manager. It’s 111 pages, so you can literally read it in an hour or two. It will give you a good system for making employment clear for your employees.

Basically, the idea is to create a one-page document explaining exactly what that employee is going to do for you, and make sure they understand it.

Then, meet regularly as things change.

5) “Make sure you not only have the right people on the bus, but that everyone is in the right seat”

I borrowed this from Good to Great author Jim Collins. Obviously you don’t want negative, cancerous employees, so bring the right people onto the bus. But once they’re on, they also need to be in the right seats.

Match personal strengths with relevant jobs. For example, I had a guy who worked for me who wasn’t really tech-savvy. Showing him a monitor rocked his world, and he didn’t understand it. It wasn’t a good idea to have him drive a planter.

He wasn’t interested in learning the computers, and you don’t want to make people do what they’re not interested in (or suited for).

Looking for more help with running your farm? Give us a call or shoot me an email.

Read part two here

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Penton Agriculture.

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