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What motivates your dairy employees?

Gerald Higginbotham Published on 29 October 2012


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 achieve their true potential and be motivated to do so.

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 presented in Table 1 . As shown from this study, money isn’t the sole criteria for which employees will perform well. Here are some possibilities to help motivate your employees to do the best job possible:

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.

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 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.

Let employees share in the dairy’s success – Employee performance, productivity and motivation can be associated with how much 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 or she is part of the team and rewarded as such.

Encourage your workers to voice complaints – Your workers are your eyes and ears on your operation. Let them convey if a certain practice is not providing the efficiencies your operation requires. Workers may feel they will be retaliated against for complaining when they can actually be an asset if a certain management system needs to be modified.

If you are currently facing high employee turnover 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. PD


—Excepts from California Dairy Newsletter, May 2012