“I recently met with 12 members of a family that work together,” recalls Tyler. “As we sat around the table and I asked each one what motivated them, only two said the same thing, and most were unaware, or were even surprised, by the answers given. And some of these individuals had worked together for decades. They just never talked about it.”
While talking about individual motivations is a good start, you need to go a few steps farther. A 2005 study by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (see the video cited in the sidebar below) says that once you have satisfied basic money needs, that is, you provide a fair wage for the work performed, people are motivated by three things:
1. Autonomy. This is the ability to be self-directed. While some people require a lot of autonomy and other significantly less, everyone wants at least some say in what they do and how they do it.
2. Mastery. This is the ability to get better at “stuff,” whatever it may be.
3. Purpose. This is the answer to the question, “Am I doing something worthwhile?”
“We do a pretty good job with the first two points,” says Tyler. “There’s a fair amount of variety in jobs on dairies, and we use motivational mastery as a motivator when we say ‘Hey, you’re getting better at this.’ But we really take purpose for granted in agriculture.”
Too many workers don’t know why they are doing what they do. In order to get people emotionally connected to their work, they need to know the overall strategy and why their jobs are so important to that strategy, says Jason Jennings, best-selling author of books such as “Hit the Ground Running” and “Think Big Act Small”
One way to counter this is to share performance figures with your staff and show how what they do affects other areas on the dairy, as well as how your dairy impacts milk production/consumption in your county or state.
Don’t forget the little things
The golden rule is still alive and well when it comes to motivation.
People tend to their best work when they are in an environment that makes them feel valued, where they get a pat on the back or a thank-you for a job well done. Find out how employees prefer to receive this recognition. Some prefer this to occur in private, while others desire more public recognition of their efforts.
These courtesies may seem simple, but managers sometimes forget to use them, say Allen Wysocki, professor, and Karl Kepner, distinguished service professor, in the University of Florida’s Department of Food and Resource Economics.