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"I want the family farm - the backbone of our country's heritage - to thrive and survive for future generations."

Articles/Press Releases

Acknowledge Good Employees
with Perks & Incentives

By Jane Eckert

As a continuation to my recent articles about employee hiring and training methods, the final topic in this series is about methods you can use on your farm to recognize good performance and continually motivate your employees. These ideas were all provided to me via a survey that I conducted this past winter.

The simplest and maybe most important thing that you can do is to acknowledge good employee initiative and performance is to immediately say “Thank you.  Good job.”  This certainly seems to be a rather obvious way to recognize an employee, however, for many farmers a heartfelt thank you is not always easy.  Perhaps, it is because of the way we were raised, and it wasn’t in our dad’s nature to offer a sincere thanks or a pat on the back.  Usually self-motivated, farmers work hard and just expect the same. 

But those managers that can offer employee praise within earshot of other workers actually achieve two goals.  First, you recognize the person that did a good job and secondly, you allow your other employees to learn what you value and appreciate, and hopefully they will want to replicate the model performance

In addition to the verbal thank you, some managers are now taking the time to write a thank you note (not just email, an actual note written and mailed to the employee’s home). We may think that employees just want a monetary thank you but a handwritten note can go a long way to boost morale.

Here is list of some of the most frequently mentioned employee perks:

  •  Discounted products.  Over 70% of the farms offer discounts to their employees on farm products, which typically include pick your own, store products and food when working.  The discount varies but is a good way to get your employee to sample and taste what you sell.
  • Free food concessions.  There is no stronger word in marketing than FREE,and 33% of the farms indicated they have a policy regarding free food and drink concessions while an employee is working.
  • Gift cards. While the amounts vary, a $5 - $20 gift card for gas, movies, Starbucks or a local restaurant or fast food can go a long way for many of our teen workers.
  • Cash in hand.  One farmer actually keeps $5.00 bills in his pocket and will hand them out on-the-spot when they see or hear an employee providing exceptional service.
  • Take them out to lunch. Many of us might feel that we don’t have time for lunch much less the time to take our employees out to lunch.  However, several farms said that this meal off the farm gave them time to better know the employee and to hear their feedback.
  • End of season parties. Once the fall decorations are put away, many farms host a special thank you party for their workers and sometimes even their families.  The parties share food, fun and often some humorous reflections about the past season or year.
  • Employee of the month. We often see this type of recognition at box stores where they have a space reserved for their Employee of the Month, and a couple of the farms do something quite similar.  Posting the employee photo on a billboard in the break room or better yet, in the farm market, and giving them a preferred parking place can boost morale and give them bragging rights for 30 days.

Cash Bonus Recognition
Of course, most employees would like to see their recognition come in the monetary form but that is not always possible in our businesses.  However, 42% of the farms that took my survey do provide some level of cash bonuses for good performance.  While it is often pretty arbitrary and certainly can depend upon the success of the season or year, farms are giving extra money for those that did a spectacular job and helped the farm achieve their goals.

I had a couple of farmers ask me, “Isn’t providing good performance just part of being an employee – why do we need to give them anything more than a paycheck?” While certainly that topic can be debated, I personally believe that our employees are our most valuable assets and keeping them happy, motivated and fulfilled is an important objective to providing consistent and more importantly exceptional service.

Jane Eckert is the founder of Eckert AgriMarketing (www.eckertagrimarketing.com), a full-service marketing and public relations firm that helps farmers to sell directly to consumers, diversify operations and become tourist destinations. She is also CEO of www.RuralBounty.com, a search directory for agritourism farms and ranches in North America. Jane can be reached at 314-862-6288 or you may email her directly.