By Trisha Wagner
One of the most common questions or concerns farmers have with regard to employees has to do with motivation: “What can I do to get my employees motivated about their job, to care more about their job?”
Many employers think people leave or stay at a job for reasons of pay. However, surveys indicate over 80% of employees leave or remain at a job for reasons other than pay.
Research tells us that we, as humans, are motivated not simply by material possession, but also by the inherent enjoyment and meaning that our actions bring us. Many of the daily tasks we ask employees to do are not inherently fun or satisfying; often they involve a lot of repetitive actions.
However, when we create an environment that fosters autonomy, relatedness and competence, employees are more likely to feel motivated to work. Motivation researchers call this theory ARC. So, how can farmers use this information to create such an environment to motivate employees?
• Chalk the field. Employee autonomy, or "self-rule," begins with “chalking the field." This requires fully defining the job's specific goals and expectations, and successfully communicating this with the employee.
Autonomy allows the employee to feel trusted in his or her ability to do the job, and allows a level of flexibility and power to make decisions. Avoid problems with an employee who abuses autonomy by making sure he or she bears the consequences and responsibility for their actions — which must match the agreed-upon goals and expectations.
Example: The goal is less than 3% calf death loss, and Joe thinks he knows how to achieve this. That's great, if the goal is met; if not, you need to discuss actions to meet the goal. After that, Joe has the option to commit to the expectations or move on to other employment. Keep in mind that if you do not follow through, Joe will have no incentive to follow the agreed-upon expectations.
• Share your vision with your team. Joe will be motivated to commit if he perceives you to be a capable leader. Leaders convey vision and values of the business so employees understand how their job relates to the overall success and importance of the business — and therefore feel their work is meaningful.
Successful employers convey a strong vision and live it every day. What is your vision for your business? What motivates you to farm? Share your passion with your team. Doing so will increase followership and therefore retention for your business. 4...
• Foster an environment of competence. Convey the importance of the job by encouraging participation in educational events, trainings and association meetings. This will help explain the “why” or the importance of the tasks you are asking of the employee. Having someone else do this once in a while enforces what you keep telling them.
Employees feel motivated about work when it is perceived to be challenging — something that requires competence and skill. By growing their job skills and increasing their knowledge base, employees can feel inherent benefits of the job as well, increasing job satisfaction and fostering motivation.
Wagner is the Jackson County Extension ag agent.