Looking to reward (i.e. motivate) your dairy farm workers this holiday season? If you think a paycheck bonus will cut it, you’re out of touch, says Jorge M. Estrada of Leadership Coaching International in Puyallup, Wash.

“Sometimes dairy managers have the misconception that pay is the most motivating factor,” he notes. “We must take into consideration that in the U.S., a large percentage of milk harvesters are immigrants, many who may be in the country for a short period of time, work very hard, utilize a small percentage of their income to live in the U.S. and then send the rest of their income to family back home. Therefore workers may appear as if what drives them the most is pay.”

But a deeper analysis of motivating factors for milk harvesters reveals that this is not the case. In fact, there is no one thing you can do for or give to your staff that will motivate them. But there is a secret formula, Estrada says.

New cross-disciplinary research in fields like neuroscience, biology and evolutionary psychology suggests that we are all guided by four basic emotional needs or drives: The drive to acquire, the drive to bond, the drive to comprehend and the drive to defend.

“These drives underlie everything we do,” Estrada says. “So, as a manager or milk harvesting supervisor, if you are attempting to boost motivation, take note.” 

Managers can take the following steps to satisfy these four drives and, thereby, increase their employees’ overall motivation:

  • Recognize and reward team motivation (encourages the drive to bond)
  • Show your workers the results of their hard work, like a drop in SCC (encourages the drive to comprehend)
  • Have a plan and execute it — especially important for emergencies (encourages the drive to defend)
  • Develop their skills as a dairy worker (encourages the drive to acquire)

A little extra cash never hurts, too.