Here are several ideas to help you tailor your demonstrations of appreciation:
- Build pride in the dairy industry. As a dairy farmer, you work in a great industry, producing a great product. You should take pride in dairy products and so should your employees. That pride will affect the way they do their jobs. For example, you might bring ice cream to the farm with spoons for all. This is not the kind of food that will keep, so everybody breaks and eats until the ice cream is gone. And at the same time, say, “I want you guys to know that I appreciate your hard work these last couple of days, and I also want you to know that what we do here goes into products like this good ice cream.”
- Build pride in your operation. Tractor companies figured out long ago that if they gave someone a hat with their name on it, people develop some loyalty to their tractors. Some farms have had jackets made, but dairy producers rarely present products to their employees with the farm name emblazoned on it. T-shirts don’t cost much. Each year, you could have a new batch made up with a new saying or theme. In fact, you could have a contest each year among family and employees to develop the new slogan.
- Involve and recognize employees’ families. When you need employees to put in extra hours, their families suffer from their absence. Recognize that sacrifice by doing something for the employees and their families, such as giving them passes to an amusement park, ballgame or race. Be sure to include families in celebrations, and schedule activities for the children of employees when you have social events for the farm crew.
- Meet special needs. All families or individuals go through times of need, and these are opportunities to say that you care about them. Prior to the start of the school year, you might give a gift card for a store so they can get school clothes for the kids, or maybe give a gift card for the local auto repair garage because of a need the employee has.
- Give for a particular interest. Individuals have different interests that make them unique. Tailor your appreciation efforts to those interests. Maybe you could sponsor a softball or bowling team. Sponsor the employees’ kids in a walk-a-thon or other fundraiser. Maybe you can give shop space for them to work on a vehicle or rent a camper for them.
So as Phil so aptly put it, don’t be a curmudgeon! Or to put it another way, don’t be like Ebenezer Scrooge, the cold-hearted, tight-fisted, greedy character in the Charles Dickens’ novel “A Christmas Carol.”