3/09 HUMAN RESOURCES: 5 key areas to boost employee morale

By Felix Soriano

Many of the jobs that your workers do can become monotonous and boring.  Employees may slow their pace, and even start cutting corners.  To make things worse, Hispanic workers may get depressed and homesick, especially during winter.  

It takes more than a bigger paycheck for employees to stay loyal and enthusiastic. How can you create a positive atmosphere  to boost worker morale?  Here are five key areas:

1. Recognize a job well done

2. Get employees involved

3. Show concern and interest 

4. Create a great work environment

5. Respect


1) Recognize a job well done. Employee recognition doesn’t always have to be a formal process.  Some of the best opportunities to build morale are recognizing employees on the spot.  Verbal praise should be given immediately after an employee has completed a great job.  Tangible rewards such as gifts are effective.  Catch an employee doing something right, for example by checking teat end cleanliness during milking, and hand him or her a calling card.
     However you recognize employees’ excellence and hard work, don’t do the same thing every time or it will soon become part of the expected compensation package. Here are other creative ways:

• Bring lunch to your employee at work.  Clearly express in detail the reason why that employee is getting special treatment.

• Write a short thank you note, in the appropriate language, and stick it to his/her paycheck.

• Recognize important dates of immigrant workers’ culture.  Join them for lunch that day.

• Chances are a lot of your Hispanic employees are big soccer fans.  Frequently ask how their favorite team is doing.

• If a nearby dairy farm  also employees Hispanic workers, set up an informal soccer game and start a fun rivalry.

• Have a pizza party for achieving a special team goal.

• Celebrate employees’ birthdays by taking donuts or a cake during the morning or lunch break.

• Take employees to training conferences or set up a formal training program with an outside trainer at the farm. This is a great way to not only recognize good work, but also to keep employees motivated.

• Keep workers entertained during winter.  At a farm that I frequently visit, the owners have foosball and ping pong tables in the tool shed where employees and sometimes owners can spend time off. 

Don’t wait for the big success to praise someone.  Many times a simple pat on the back, giving encouragement for a job well done will go a long way. 


2) Get them involved in their jobs and show them they’re important to the success of the dairy operation.  Help motivate employees by letting them participate in setting job goals and expectations.  Let them have input in how to do their work.  For example:  Ask their opinion on what type of teat dipper should be used or how to reduce somatic cell counts. 


3) Show concern and interest  in your workers as individuals. It doesn’t cost any money and can greatly build employee morale. Expect to spend quite some time coaching, counseling and listening to your workers.  The better you get to know your employees, the sooner you will identify when something is going wrong, when they are upset or when someone is depressed or homesick.  

Don’t be afraid to get involved in the employee’s private life if you feel the person is trying to reach out to you for advice.  Some of my clients worry that Hispanic workers don’t want interference in their private lives. But I often find that people who are hurting appreciate assistance from someone they can communicate with and trust.  When language  is an issue, find an outside source who can speak the language and periodically meet with the workers. 


4) Create a great work environment,  both the physical workplace and the team environment.  The physical place says a lot about the dairy operation’s values and policies. Employees working together as a team are usually more successful and productive.  Promote teamwork by setting common goals and having them work together to achieve those goals. 


5) Respect  employees for who they are as individuals.  Don’t treat everyone the same.  Everyone is different and treating people differently is part of helping them feel unique.  This doesn’t mean that you should have different rules for all the employees.  However, have your staff participate when setting workplace rules and listen to the comments and suggestions they might have.  Also, when making a new rule, it is very important to explain its purpose and enforce it fairly among all workers.  

To make a difference with your employees:

•  Show that you genuinely care about them 

• Actively listen to what they have to say

•  Make your employees feel good about their work

• Excite your employees about doing things that they never considered doing

• Treat people consistently and fairly

• Promote teamwork 

When done right this will result in more inspired, hard working employees who go the extra mile to promote the dairy operation’s success.  



• Felix Soriano owns APN Consulting, a labor management and human resource consulting business in Easton, Pa. Contact him at 610-297-0313 or e-mail felix@apndairy.com.