GETTING THE MOST FROM YOUR WORKERS
R G Bennett
Cedara Agricultural Development Institute
The dairy farmer can be knowledgeable and proficient in all aspects of dairy farming, but with a mediocre labour force, which is not trained or motivated, he is unlikely to make a success of dairy farming. The management of the labour force (people management) is a neglected section of management, and the conception often is: "After all, we pay them, therefore they must work and do as they’re told, they applied for the job". It is now generally accepted that people are the most valuable asset of an enterprise, and when one starts thinking about the benefits to any enterprise in terms of people, the potential is enormous.
When one is experiencing problems with labour, one tends to try to solve the problem by treating the symptom instead of determining the cause, and then introducing preventative measures so that the problem will not recur. One also tends to look to the distant horizon for solutions, instead of looking at everyday practical solutions. The question arises: what must the farmer, as employer, do to prevent or minimize labour problems on his farm? Briefly, the farmer should strive for sound labour relations in the work situation, to establish a happy and satisfied work force. The farmer should try to meet the worker’s basic needs, such as food, clothing and housing; as well as his social needs, that is, the need to get along with others; security needs; status needs; and the need to do well in his work. It is important that the farmer should pay attention to the basic management principles, set out in this leaflet, to improve the relationship between people in the work situation.
The basic management principles are planning, training, motivation, housing and discipline, which are dealt with in this leaflet.
The farmer must determine the number of people he requires on his farm, and decide what attributes they should have. Before workers are recruited, it is necessary to know for what purposes they will be employed, and what abilities, personality traits, habits and expectations they should have in respect of sex, age, qualifications, experience, drinking habits, health, and salary. In this way, the job and worker specifications are determined for each post.
New workers could be selected from persons seeking employment, work seekers referred by employees, or farmers’ recruiting groups. Ideally the farmer should investigate the methods and sources of recruitment before filling a post from outside. He also should determine whether one of the present employees could be suitable for the post.
Thorough selection is absolutely essential. The applicant should never be judged by his outward appearances alone. During the selection process it is recommended that the induna (supervisor) is present. This allows the induna to feel involved, respects his position that the workers are, in fact, his subordinates.
The farmer must know what he wishes to achieve and plan the interview accordingly. i.e. he must determine:
- the training and experience of the applicant
- whether the applicant will co-operate
- whether he is diligent (A question which could be asked in the form: "What will you do when you see a cow that is sick and you are on your way home after a hard days work?)
- whether he is a stable worker, or will he leave his work after only a few weeks
- whether he is the right person in the right post, e.g., the applicant must be able to work with animals, and not be interested only in mechanical things, if the post involves dealing with animals.
During the interview, be friendly, considerate, and polite, and avoid general discussions. First, allow the person to tell his story without putting any questions, then put questions to him simply and clearly, asking one question at a time. From the questions and the answers one can evaluate the person. The interview cannot accurately determine a person’s aptitude and personality traits. Therefore one should apply a performance test. If, for example, the work is to do with artificial insemination, make him handle some of the equipment and, if possible, inseminate a cow.
It is important that the correct person be selected for the job, one who has an interest in and aptitude for the work. Thorough selection will give the applicant a fair chance to succeed in the farm organisation. It is important that a work contract, whether verbal or written (preferable), stating conditions of employment, be agreed upon.
INDUCTION AND TRAINING OF NEW WORKERS
Before new workers start in the job, it is essential that they receive some induction and training. The aim of an induction programme is to make the newcomer aware:
- that his services are vital for the smooth functioning of operations
- that he is not an intruder, but a respected colleague in his specific section
- that he will be accepted as an individual with unique characteristics
- that his placement, and training will take place systematically, and his progress is not only important to himself, but also to the organisation.
Newcomers should not only be trained when they are appointed, but training should be an ongoing process. Training should be undertaken in those areas where it will contribute to the highest increase in productivity and reduction in costs. It is essential that the employer be aware of the performance of the workers before training, and what can be expected of them after training.
Training can be offered by the farmer himself, or by outside organisations. If workers are sent away for training, the farmer must know the content of the course so that the worker can come back and practise what he has been taught. So many people are sent on a course, and then return to the farm to continue with their old work without being given the oppotunity to use their new knowledge. This can lead to dissatisfaction and the worker resigning.
MOTIVATION OF EMPLOYEES
Motivation is the secret of success in getting greatest productivity from workers. To supply motivation, one must incorporate motivators into the tasks of the workers.
Feeling of achievement
No one can experience a feeling of achievement if such achievement is not measured. The key to this motivator is setting objectives. The question is: "What kind of objective can one set for the workers on a dairy farm?". The incidence of mastitis on a dairy unit is a very important factor in milk production. One could note the number of mastitis cases during the past six months. In consultation with the dairy induna, and after the correct training of the relevant staff, set an objective to reduce the number of mastitis cases during the next six months. The induna must agree on the objective set, and must be given the authority to decide for himself how these objectives will be reached. The farmer must monitor the situation and report back. The minute a farmer sets measurable objectives for his workers, or even better, allows them to do so, he creates a situation in which they can develop a sense of achievement.
Recognition of achievement
It is imperative for a farmer to keep his workers informed of their progress, therefore the key concept of this motivator is feedback. Every person has a need for feedback, and wants to receive this feedback from persons who are important to him (the farmer). This need is so strong that sometimes a worker will unwittingly start to make mistakes just to get a reaction from his boss, even if that recognition takes the form of a scolding. There are several ways of acknowledging achievement. A compliment is probably the most common form of recognition. For example: a labourer responsible for rearing the calves had experienced a problem with scours in the calves, and, after consultation with the farmer, treated the calves. After a few days the farmer noted that the calves are looking better. He should compliment the labourer on the fact. Some farmers believe that to recognise achievement will encourage their workers to demand higher wages, but in actual fact this is not usually encountered and a higher productivity is realised.
If the farmer were to tell a worker: "You are responsible for cleaning out the milking parlour", that would not motivate him. The word "responsibility" does not result in motivation, but the fact of being given the responsibility of independent decision making does motivate the worker, i.e. the worker must be trusted to use his own judgement. The farmer, after training the worker to do the specific job, and satisfying himself that the worker is doing it correctly, gives the worker the responsibility for the job so that he can produce the necessary results from his decisions.
Aptitude and preference
Unfortunately, farmers sometimes place a worker in a certain position without determining whether he has an aptitude for the job. Once a farmer appoints a worker to a position which holds some interest for him, and for which he has an aptitude, he will be motivated.
Growth and development
A worker will feel that he is developing when he has mastered his present work and is learning new skills. Training has two facets. First, the worker must be trained, to equip him to perform his job. Second, the worker ought to receive the kind of training which will give him the opportunity to develop further, and eventually enable him to cope with a higher level job. Outside training can also be used, but it will be of no use if the farmer does not allow the worker, on his return, to use his newly obtained knowledge.
It is the dairy farmer’s responsibility to have a suitable labour management programme, which has a twofold objective:
- to treat his workers in a way that will obviate reasons for complaints and dissatisfaction
- to equip and motivate the workers to function efficiently, and effectively, and to develop and utilize their capabilities to the full.
In order for a worker to utilize his capabilities to the full, the farmer must :
- Agree with the worker on what results he must produce, by setting specific goals.
- Give the worker the opportunity to show what he is capable of doing. The job of work must be so delegated to the worker that he is given the authority to deal with a situation which requires that he use judgement. It is necessary to give instructions to subordinates from time to time, but a farmer who constantly issues instructions is not a good delegator.
- Tell the worker how he is doing, whether it is satisfactory or poorly. To achieve this, the farmer must monitor performance. The saying "what you measure is what you get" is quite true. The farmer most not be frightened to tell the worker how he is achieving.
- Give the worker help when he needs it, or when he performs poorly. Speak to the individual worker alone. If this is done in the proper way, the chances are good that an under-achiever will either change his ways and improve, or will lookfor another job. Always confront the job and not the person. The farmer must insist on above average performances, and treat the workers in a way which will not insult their human dignity.
- Give the worker recognition for his contribution to the job, and reward him accordingly. The rewards can be:
- psychological; compliments, appreciation,
- involvement in decision making
- social; time off, celebrating the successful completion of a project
Any reward given must be associated with a particular job of work.
Suitable housing should be supplied, and should be designed in consultation with the labourers to meet their needs. It is suggested that a nominal rent be charged. An agreement must also be reached as to whether livestock can be kept and how they are to be managed. Schooling facilities should be made available for the worker’s children, whether on the farm or on a neighbouring farm.
Lastly, a disciplinary code, which is a list of offences and corresponding disciplinary action, must be drawn up, and must include a procedure which states the order in which a series of actions are to take place in order to rectify a deed. The disciplinary code and the procedure must be acceptable to the workers and must be in written form. Discipline should be applied in private, and during working hours. The disciplinary code will ensure that workers know what kind of behaviour is expected, or not expected, from them and give the bounds within which their conduct and performance will be judged and assessed.