Reward and recognition

People should be rewarded for a job well done at a level consistent with their contribution to the farm business. As well as motivating ongoing effort, it is fundamental to a good employee retention strategy.

Rewards for good performance in the workplace need not be limited to remuneration – there are many other ways of showing appreciation.

How appropriate is a wage or salary increase?

Financial reward is a common way of recognising a job well done. This is usually seen in the form of a wage or salary increase but not always.

Wage and salary rises can be an effective motivational tool yet it is recommended that they are kept in line with the farm business objectives and financial limitations.

Rewards to be realistic

Rewards need to be kept in line with running a sustainable business.

It is often not the actual wage or salary but how much they are paid compared to others that employees perceive as important. However, it can be misleading to just compare the cash received. A fair comparison needs to take the whole package into account such as their responsibilities, the hours worked, shift time and length, subsidised accommodation, travel, additional paid leave etc.

Make each individual’s remuneration transparent.
Cash salary $40,000
Superannuation (9.5%) $3,800
On-farm accommodation ($250/week) $13,000
Study leave (2 weeks per year) $1,500
TOTAL $59,200

Automatic annual pay raises may inflate the wage and salary structure (see Employment and Reward for market rates of pay). Periodic cost-of-living increases, to encourage employee retention, can be accomplished via incremental increases that have nothing to do with performance appraisals.

One-off rewards that are linked to performance are probably more manageable: a bonus rather than a pay increase. Another option that does not depend on cash flow is to share the growth of the farm business, for example a percentage of the profit or a part of the heifer drop (which can also have tax advantages for the employee in the short-term).

Whatever you choose, make sure it will represent genuine reward to the staff member. Try to match this to their personal situation and goals by understanding what would reward and motivate them.

An incentive scheme for milk quality

Alf milked 260 cows in a herd that calved in autumn and winter. After attending the Countdown Downunder Farmer Short Course he started changing practices with the aim of maintaining their bulk milk cell count below 200,000 cells/mL for the year. Part of this involved demonstrating to his two employees how to check teat spray coverage, explaining to them why it was important to change the way they were removing the teat cups and encouraging them to be on the alert for suspect clinical cases. He also introduced an incentive based on milk quality where they received a ticket to the football or an event in Melbourne on the weeks where the herd had a cell count in the best 10% for the factory. They responded eagerly and the cell count goal was met for the next 12 months.

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What are other non-financial ways of rewarding people?

People value different things

Rather than assuming all employees are looking for more money or promotional opportunities, find out what it is they like about their job and build from there.

Some people are ambitious and want to achieve goals or increase their sphere of influence and responsibility; others are driven by the desire for self-development, job security, social interaction, peer approval, and/or the need to have meaningful work.

Accordingly there are various ways of rewarding people non-financially such as:

  • providing more flexible work arrangements such as part-time employment, job-sharing or hours that accommodate other interests;
  • offering opportunities for training and development, either on or off the job (see skills development for ideas on how to approach this);
  • giving individuals a special project to manage;
  • giving individuals more autonomy (more freedom in the way they work);
  • grooming them for promotion, or promoting (temporarily or permanently) to higher duties or a new status (as represented in a job title);
  • supporting a social activity in the workplace;
  • participating in initiatives to improve employee health and well being; and
  • supporting their ability to participate in the workplace and community (for example, via mentoring)

The challenge is to have rewards that match an individual’s personality and motivate them to continue to improve their performance and contribute to the farm team.

Vary job tasks to keep staff motivated

The daily routine on many dairy farms does not give some staff the opportunity to experience a sense of achievement from completing a task. Finishing a length of fencing, renovating a paddock, growing a crop or raising young stock seem to have more tangible endpoints than other activities such as milking every day of the week. As a manager, you might consider the benefit of temporarily altering people’s tasks or put in place a regular rotation of work duties.