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Experts cover today’s key dairy labor issues and offer fool-proof techniques to optimize employee performance, sat­isfaction and longevity.

What Motivates Your Dairy Employees?

Feb 06, 2012

Dairy managers may think they know what employees want for their happiness in the workplace, but there is evidence to the contrary.

 
Higgenbotham photo   CopyBy Gerald Higginbotham, Ph.D., University of California-Cooperative Extension
 
In conversing with dairy managers, their usual complaint is their labor force. When these individuals are asked what motivates their employees to do a good job every day, the usual response is, “They will be fired if they don’t perform well. That is motivation enough.”
 
Their statements may be true, but is employee performance really improved with the threat of termination? Dairy employees already have the desire and capability to become top performers. The challenge for dairy managers is to create a workplace environment where employees can truly achieve their true potential and be motivated to do so.  
 
Motivation has been defined as a predisposition to behave in a purposeful manner to achieve specific, unmet needs, the will to achieve, and the inner force that drives individuals to accomplish personal and organizational goals. Motivated employees are needed more than ever in the dairy industry, especially in these difficult economic times.
 
Dairy managers may think they know what employees want for their happiness in the workplace, but there is evidence to the contrary. Researchers at George Mason University did a study comparing what employees wanted, and what the employer thought the employees wanted. The results of how each group ranked the desires are as follows:
 
Employees’ Rank
Item
Employer’s Rank
1                              
Interesting work
5
2
Appreciation of work
8
3
Feeling “in on things”
10
4
Job security
2
5
Good wages
1
6
Promotion/growth
3
7
Good working conditions
4
8
Personal loyalty
6
9
Tactful discipline
7
10
Sympathetic help with problems
9

 

As shown from this study, money isn’t the sole criteria for which employees will perform well.

Here are some possible pointers on how to help your employees to be more motivated to do the best job possible:
 
1.       Be the example. The manager’s attitude can set the tone for the rest of the employees. Good managers consider their employees as part of the team and communicate with them on decisions that may affect them. It is important to listen to everyone’s opinions, and be receptive to their input. Employees are more motivated when they feel needed, appreciated and valued.
 
2.       Focus on employee happiness rather than employee motivation. Dairy employees work long hours and spend a considerable amount of time away from their families. They may miss important events that their children are participating in. Communicate with your workers to understand their family needs so accommodations can be made for them to attend the more important family functions.
 
3.       Let employees share in the dairy’s success. Employee performance, productivity and motivation can be associated with how well a worker feels part of the dairy team. Various employee incentives can be tied to milk production, reproduction, calf raising, etc. These incentive programs can give the employee a sense that he/she is part of the team and rewarded as such.
 
4.       Encourage your workers to voice complaints. Your workers are your eyes and ears of your operation. Let them convey if a certain practice is not providing the efficiencies your operation requires. Workers may feel that they will be retaliated against for complaining when they can actually be an asset if a certain management system needs be modified.
 
If you are currently facing high employee turn-over rates, it might be time to re-assess your labor management program. Doing so may help to improve your employees’ performance on your dairy, as well as their satisfaction with their job.
 
Dr. Gerald Higginbotham is a Dairy Advisor with the University of California Cooperative Extension Service for Fresno and Madera Counties.  He received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah and Ph.D degree from the University of Arizona.  Dr. Higginbotham is a member of the American Registry of Professional Animal Scientists and is a diplomat of the American College of Animal Sciences. Contact him at 559-675-7879, Ext 209 or gehigginbotham@ucdavis.edu.

 

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