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5 Tips to Motivate and Retain Employees

02:58AM Aug 06, 2014
CornCollege2013 soybean field
The transformation from the industrial age to the social age means farm operators need to hire for competencies instead of skills and experience, says Kim Seeling Smith, CEO of Ignite Global, a consulting firm focused on engaging and retaining staff. Here are five keys to keeping your team satisfied.

Define Objectives

Although it might seem overly formal on some farms, employees need clear objectives to be outlined in their job descriptions. "Hire the right people and let them know what they are responsible for accomplishing," says Seeling Smith. "Then let them be free to accomplish those tasks." Prioritize metrics and outcomes.  

Gallup statistics show it costs up to 300% of an annual salary to replace one staff member, and the cost to keep employees who shouldn’t be there is one-third of their annual salary.

Show Appreciation

Recognition, not a reward, motivates repeated good performance on the job, says Laura Cornille-Cannady, a farm business consultant who specializes in human resources. "Catch your employees doing something right and praise them for it," she says. If an employee goes above and beyond, Cornille-Cannady suggests sending appreciation notes to employees and their spouses. "Say thank you, and be authentic," she says.

Encourage Development and Growth

Help your team identify career and personal goals, Seeling Smith says. Assisting employees in cultivating their careers and challenging them in their jobs will increase loyalty. Employees’ goals can include climbing the corporate ladder or having a job that allows them to have a good family life. "You want to make sure you are helping them meet them," she says.

Capitalize on Strengths

The ability to play to one’s strengths is a top determinant of success, Seeling Smith says. "Look for not only the abilities they are good at but also those things that really wake them up and make them enjoy their job," she says.

Identify Motivators

Kansas farmer Lon Frahm, who has employed some of the same people for three decades, says everyone wants to be respected and happy. "You just have to figure out each person’s definition of happy," he says. "Picking what hours they are going to be on the tractor takes a lot of stress away." He also asks for input on decisions so employees feel ownership in their work and the farm.