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Paul featured in this month’s edition of British Dairying, the monthly trade magazine for UK Dairy Farmers. The article focussed on staffing and provided useful tips to help farmers attract the right staff for their dairy farm. Read the full article below.

5 top tips on creating a motivated workforce on your farm

When you’ve worked hard to find and recruit the right people for your farm, the challenge then becomes how to keep them motivated – often against a backdrop of long hours and demanding work.  In this second article addressing staffing issues following on from July’s issue where Paul Harris from Real Success provided ten top tips for attracting the right staff to your farm, Paul provides his perspective and tips for how to create a motivated team.

Creating a motivated team isn’t simply about telling everyone they’re doing a good job, or offering bonus schemes, incentives, or great working conditions.  All of these are important to consider but often not enough to create a motivated team.  To truly get the best from your staff, you need to create an atmosphere where people feel so valued, that they motivate themselves.

‘Motivation’ is a subject frequently discussed but often misunderstood.  Of itself, motivation doesn’t exist.  You can’t buy it, bottle it, or spend it.  It’s not even something you can share.  So how do you find it, develop it, and create a team that is motivated to deliver your daily requirements and perform well?

Here are 5 quick tips to help you build motivation amongst your team.

1. Listen

It’s often said that we have two ears and one mouth, but we fail to utilise them in this ratio.  So, regularly ask your team what’s important to them and what will make them feel valued and appreciated.  Often, it’s more about a simple thank you on a regular basis rather than complex bonus schemes or incentives.  And don’t be defensive.  If you ask for feedback, be ready to listen to it.  The views of your team are just as important as your own and if you genuinely listen and take on board what your team are saying, seeing, or feeling, they will be more motivated to perform for you. A boss who listens is often a reason to stay on a farm.  A boss or colleague who barks orders and resists any feedback is often a reason to leave a farm.

2. Understand Personalities

Every person is different and yet we often speak to people in a way that we wish to be spoken to.  If our personalities are the same – this can work very effectively, but if we’re different, it can be disastrous for motivation.  If you prefer to speak directly and get to the point quickly, whilst a member of staff prefers to be given time to reflect and requires detailed plans and structure to work effectively, then you need to adapt your style towards the member of staff.  Expecting them to see the world in the way you do is the sure-fire way to destroy motivation and lose staff. There are various personality style systems available including VITA Profiling® (designed specifically for the agricultural industry) which enable you to understand your own communication style and that of your team.

3. Be a Safe Farm

Working for a farming business that has a cavalier attitude towards farm safety can be highly demotivating for staff.  A lack of protective clothing, poor machinery maintenance or asking staff to take risks for the sake of efficiency and speed, can create a worrying atmosphere – particularly if there has been an accident on the farm.  Cutting corners on health and safety reduces motivation and puts your business at risk so lead from the front.  If you wear a helmet whilst on a quad bike – your team are far more likely to follow suit and feel cared for and valued. Farming has a poor track record on health and safety – make your farm stand out by being a safe place to work.

4. Personal Reviews

Take one hour a year to sit and listen to your staff and if possible, use an external facilitator. An annual review isn’t the regular catch-up chats across the yard or even the monthly staff meeting.  This is a structured session where you listen to how the member of staff is feeling as well as discussing how they are doing.  It should be a genuine two-way discussion where you examine what’s going well, what needs to be discussed and what training and development needs should be addressed.  It’s a chance for a quality conversation that should have a written record so that you can refer to anything you agreed.  A good review does require a level of coaching and questioning skills that you may not possess or have been trained to deliver so engage an external consultant to help you.  It may cost a little more, but the result will be far more open and productive than if you’d simply asked all the questions yourself.  And if you have foreign staff, invest in an interpreter for the day. You’ll be amazed how much staff value this time- even if at first, they are sceptical about the process.

5. Communication

The single biggest reason that staff become de-motivated and leave a farm is due to “poor communication”.  Consistently, when asked why a candidate is looking for a new role, they will cite the poor communication style of the business owner, farm manager or a colleague as the main reason for them seeking new employment.  Good communication has two distinct aspects – “process” and “style”.

The “process” of communication consists of the structure, frequency, and methods you use to communicate with staff.  This may be regular staff meetings when you celebrate successes, bring the team up-to-speed with how the farm is performing and your business plans for the coming months.  It could also be your regular 1-1 discussions with team members to see how they are doing in their roles – giving them the opportunity to give honest feedback and constructive criticism.  It could also be social events and other gatherings where you get the team together.  The absence of these communication processes often creates a vacuum where people make assumptions or worse still, gossip and rumours start. Before you know it, the team all have their chins on the floor and are lacking in any motivation at all.  So, focus on establishing effective communication processes first.

The second element to communication is your “style”.  This links heavily to the personality style of the individual team members and it’s essential you learn to flex your style according to who you are talking to.  However, it’s also about how you deliver feedback, how you address your staff in front of others and if you’re a family farm – it’s especially important how you’re seen or heard to talk to your family members.  Swearing at staff or family in front of others, or constantly complaining about your staff, won’t build a motivated team.  Expecting people to work excessively long hours without expressing gratitude for their commitment, doesn’t build a willingness for people to work harder.

So be positive about your staff.  There will be times when tough words need to be said, but if you show you’re prepared to listen, you take the time to understand the personalities of your team, you provide a safe place to work, you engage in a meaningful annual review and you commit to communicating effectively, you will create an atmosphere where the team will motivate themselves.

Remember – motivation can’t be bought, sold, or shared.  But an atmosphere of motivation can be created with just a few simple steps.

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