The Human Side of Farming: How to Motivate Farm Employees
No poultry farmer grows alone. With the enormous quantities of poultry you produce in such a short period of time, it would be nearly impossible to grow the birds by yourself. So, you hire farm employees to help you out! But, working on the human side of your business can sometimes be just as challenging as an outbreak of necrotic enteritis. That’s why Allen and Jason had a chat about how to lead well, motivate your employees and develop a meaningful work environment for everyone on your farm.
Finding hardworking farm employees can be a daunting task. Then, once you hire people, managing and retaining them can be just as challenging. Sometimes it may feel like dealing with poultry is easier than dealing with people. In the video, Jason jokes, “They [poultry] don’t talk back.” All jokes aside, the bottom line is that every poultry farmer wants a successful farm, and in order to accomplish that, he or she must have great workers. Here are 4 ways to better manage the human side of your poultry operation.
1. Explain the Valuable Role They Play in Society
Everyone wants their work to matter. Everyone wants to do something significant with their lives. Many times, poultry farm employees initially feel as if their work only benefits the grower—that they are just helping the grower’s particular farm and business. But, in reality, that’s not the case at all. 1 million pounds of poultry meat every 45 days, like on Jason’s farm—or the amount of poultry you produce—couldn’t be grown and brought to market without them. That 1 million pounds isn’t grown to only benefit the grower (that would be quite a bit a chicken for one family). Sure, it benefits the grower’s business, but furthermore, it feeds a hungry world. Chicken is the cheapest source of protein in the world, and poultry farms are a vital part of that specific food system.
Additionally, our food system, in general, is a matter of national security. A nation without food can’t protect itself. So, farm employees’ hard work on your farm plays a role in keeping our country safe. By explaining their valuable role in society and making it known that YOU value their job from Day 1, you will instill a sense of pride and responsibility in them that will translate to harder work and increased productivity.
2. TEACH Not Tell
Odds are that you’ll end up hiring at least some employees that have never worked in a poultry house before. AND even if they have worked on a poultry farm in the past, they haven’t worked on your poultry farm. So, growers must learn to be teachers. Rather than merely telling them your expectations and how to properly perform the necessary tasks, teach them. Perform the task yourself and have them watch you. Model exactly how you expect each step of the process to be done. Work with them on a continuing basis to make sure that they understand your thoughts and system. If workers are trying their best and still completing tasks incorrectly, then it falls back on the grower to do a better job of teaching not telling.
3. Incentivize and Invest
A small incentive can go a long way—something to put a little extra pep in their step and motivation in their day because they’re looking at the possibility of seeing extra dollars in their paycheck. To farm employees, more than the actual monetary value of receiving a bonus, knowing that the grower values them enough to offer an incentive is what makes the biggest difference. If you make a little extra, give them a little extra. View it as an investment because when your employees know that you value them, they will value their jobs more and, in turn, do better work.
4. Always Give Respect
There is nothing like true respect to push an employee to work harder. Knowing that you respect them, you value their work, and you need their help—that is the momentum that will keep grinding day in and day out. When thinking about good employees, it’s hard not to think about Chick-fil-A. Their customer service is unlike no other. Why? R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Chick-fil-A respects their employees, and feeling respected and appreciated by their boss encourages the workers to return that respect to others. Unfortunately, farm workers aren’t always treated the best—maybe their previous farm employer didn’t give them respect. So, it’s extremely important for you, as the grower and employer striving to create a positive farm environment, to treat them with the respect they deserve.
It all boils down to developing a meaningful work environment for everyone on your farm. Create the farm culture that your employees want to be a part of.
If you have any questions about farm employee management, reach out to Jason directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. He's happy to help.
If you need anything relating to poultry biosecurity, need help troubleshooting problems on your farm or simply want to learn more about what we do, give me a call anytime at 706-424-4471.
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