Improving Employee Morale and Teamwork Without Breaking the Bank

Ashley Howlett

It’s Monday morning. Your coffee maker just broke, a milker didn’t show up, a skidsteer is down (which someone needed about an hour ago), two people asked you to fix something as you walked through the door, and oh yeah, milk price still stinks. With the stress of all the things going on, maintaining a chipper attitude and not lashing out at that one employee you seem to think was born yesterday, can be a struggle.


During times of stress we often lack the composure to respond in the best manner, so how do you coach your team to be self-motivated and take some weight off your shoulders? In today’s competitive market it’s imperative to continually coach and encourage farm employees with enthusiasm and grace. Fostering a team environment where everyone feels valued at work may pose a challenge, but if successfully done, it may lead to better performance during these low earning periods. Here are some ways to improve employee morale and teamwork without breaking the bank:


  • Be Inclusive – People want to feel they are a part of something greater than themselves. With many roles within the farm, every person has an impact on the business- but do they know that? Helping them understand the importance of their role and including them in decisions regarding their area of work provides a sense of belonging and importance.
  • Create a Roadmap – A lack of vision and purpose makes tasks seem more mundane. Although goal setting may seem elementary, encourage employees to set their own goals or set goals as a team. Whether employees do this individually or together, it provides more time for communication between management and employees, and helps focus on the bigger picture of the business.
  • Create a Career, Not a Job – Showing employees how they can create their career inspires growth and motivation to work up into other positions. Being up front about how they can improve to earn more money or be promoted will remove the ceiling they see where their career stops progressing in your business.
  • Be Real – Being honest and able to admit mistakes are a few traits employees admire in their supervisors. Having sincere and candid conversations breaks down walls and demonstrates vulnerability, a precursor to establishing trust. By demonstrating this to your team, you shape the way conversation should take place between employees and teams.
  •  Establish Trust – Not only is building a relationship of trust important, but trusting people to do their job and make the right decisions is extremely important to build self-motivated employees. When people can understand what effect their decisions will have, and when they have the room to learn from mistakes, it makes learning much more effective than making decisions for them. When employees trust you, it’s also much easier for them to come to you when they have an issue with another employee, or for other personal matters. Being receptive and attentive to employee requests and concerns makes them feel understood and listened to.
  • Attitude – Working with someone who has a poor or negative attitude is the worst kind of punishment.
    Nothing kills confidence and learning faster. If you want the best people on your farm, don’t just hire the
    highest skilled employees- you can ALWAYS train for that. Hire people who have a positive attitude.
    They’re less likely to give up, are more willing to help others, and will boost other people’s attitudes as
  •  Provide a Safe Environment – Being a manager that employees aren’t afraid to talk to is important. A large
    aspect of how they feel within the workplace is how well they get along or interact with other employees.
    If the brightest person in your crew is holding back ideas because someone else has a much more
    dominant or hurtful attitude, there is a lack of psychological safety that prohibits your team from truly
    shining. In an effort to understand what makes a team effective, Google found that psychological safety
    was the number one trait of effective teams. When employees are comfortable to share their ideas and
    be vulnerable around one another, team synergy will be at its peak.

Getting people with the right attitude and drive from the beginning may be difficult, but it makes training and
employee interaction much more manageable over time. As you encourage employees to see beyond the task and
beyond their immediate needs, it fosters more collaboration across the board. When a synergy is created within
the farm, less time can be devoted to putting out fires, but that synergy has to start with you, the manager.
Charles R. Swindoll tells us, “10 percent of life is what happens to you, 90 percent of it is how you react to it.”
Don’t let that 90 percent of reaction control you or your farm. Being conscious of how you handle stressful
situations, and the culture you create within the farm can help you better manage your employees and allow you
to devote your time to other operational and strategic issues in the long run.