What motivates your labour?

Managing a farm is a busy, multitasked operation with the unexpected always cropping up to disrupt well-made plans.
Issue date : 12 September 2008

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Managing a farm is a busy, multitasked operation with the unexpected always cropping up to disrupt well-made plans. Getting your labourers motivated and productive is a huge challenge. Many farmers get this wrong and in the process raise their blood pressures, get less out of their labourers, spend too much time trying to get a day’s work out of them and end up neglecting other important functions.

Just as politicians are able to speak and say nothing, so labourers can work and do nothing, even when you are watching them. I t’s important to understand that manual labourers don’t not have much interest in a farm other than as a means of earning a living. you have to devise another way to motivate your workers instead of shouting and using threats.

You have to understand what would be an incentive for a good day’s work, and for most workers, this isn’t money. remember when was working for a huge agricultural estate, where it was decided that when a labourer had completed the required units of piece-work for the day, he’d be given the opportunity to do work over and above this with escalating payment per unit. It had been calculated that by doing this, it would be more economical for the company as it would save on housing, medical, etc.

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The workers, in turn, would have the opportunity of earning double wage for a full day’s work. And being capitalistically inclined, we reasoned that workers would jump at earning extra money. But to our utter amazement, very few made use of this opportunity. What became clear to us was that culturally, recreation and socialising with family and friends was more important than extra income when workers already had sufficient for their needs.

The incentive wasn’t money, but leisure. Perhaps there’s a good lesson in this for all of us. In addition, there appears to be a big difference between workers who show initiative and opt for more senior positions and labourers. This is significant in terms of handling productivity to suit workers and farmers. So if the labourers’ incentive is leisure, allow them to work for it! this is the idea behind piece-work.

 Labourers can start when they like, leave when the job is done with many hours of leisure still to enjoy. they are prepared to work hard for it. They can achieve more in half a day of piece-work than going through the motions with you pushing them all day. The carrot works better than the stick for all concerned. More on this next week. – Bill Kerr ((016) 366 0616 or e-mail [email protected]). |fw