What do Workers Want Most?

Dr. Allen Young
USU Extension Dairy Specialist

Knowing what is important to your employees (family and non-family) is imperative for you as a manager. That is why I want you to rank the following ten items from 1 to 10, with 1 being the most important and 10 being the least. DO IT BEFORE YOU GO ANY FURTHER. Remember, this is how you think your employee would rank the items in this list. This list is reprinted from Communication Briefings, August 2001.

What Employees Want Rating
  1. Help with personal problems_
  2. Interesting work _
  3. High wages_
  4. Job security_
  5. Personal loyalty of supervisor _
  6. Tactful discipline _
  7. Full appreciation of work done_
  8. Feeling of being involved in things_
  9. Good working conditions_
  10. Promotion and growth in the company _

Don't peek!

Now that you have ranked the above list, let me tell you how the employees in the published survey ranked the list. These were non-farm workers, but my experience has been that the same rankings hold true in agriculture. In fact, I am aware of this having been done several times and the general rankings seem to be the consistent.

The rankings are: 1. Interesting work, 2. Being appreciated, 3. Being involved in things, 4. Job security, 5. High wages, 6. Promotion and growth, 7. Working conditions, 8. Loyalty of supervisor, 9. Help with personal problems, 10. Tactful discipline.

Every time I see this, the EMPLOYER almost always ranks high wages as number one on the list. I have even seen these lists where employees ranked wages near the bottom. I almost always get an argument from the employer saying that the only thing that motivates their employees is money. That may even be partially true if the wages are low; however, if the wages are adequate, an employee will almost always rank wages lower on the list than will an employer.

Interesting work was ranked number one, suggesting that as an employer you need to think of ways to keep the interest level of the job high, or you will have a high turnover rate or end up with low motivated employees. Dairy work (or agriculture in general) tends to have a great deal of routine. Cows need to be milked daily, two or three times, with a milking routine that is standardized and consistent. Feeding and other jobs are the same. How do you add variety to a system for the employees, when variety for the cows is what you do not want? My suggestion would be to give them responsibility. Making them responsible for certain jobs and product quality goals, and giving them the authority to make necessary changes, will go a long way toward adding variety as well as satisfying items number 3 and 6 above. If they do a good job, show them you appreciate their efforts (number 2 ranking) by rewarding them with an extra day off, a night out-on-the-town with their wife or husband, tickets to a favorite sporting event (maybe share your JAZZ tickets, against Vancouver), a special certificate or anything that that particular employee regards highly.

If you are going to give them responsibilities, then you need to provide adequate training either on-farm or off-farm (extension type meetings). As I have said before, the top dairy farmer in New Hampshire had the philosophy that he wanted his workers to be so well trained that they could replace him if needed. Many of these people went on to other jobs and were very successful. In the process, his farm also prospered in ways that amazed me. Employee loyalty was very high and many problems got solved before they became big. Economically, he prospered.

As an employer, you have to make things happen on your farm through other people. How you treat them and motivate them will dictate your success. Knowing what is important to your employees should be something you consider when determining your strengths and weakness. Make plans now to help your employees succeed on your farm.