As we have moved out of the pandemic, and with agriculture going through a significant growth phase, hardly a day goes by where we don’t have a conversation with a client who needs more workers.

It goes without saying that employees who are engaged and motivated significantly outperform those who are not and are also less likely to leave.

Anyone who has gone through the process of losing a good employee will attest to the costs, both money & time, of finding a replacement. In the tightest labour market anyone can remember, it has become critical to retain good staff.How to keep your valuable employees engaged and motivated

So how do we keep our employees engaged and motivated?

Researchers from Harvard Business School came up with four drivers of employee engagement & motivators:

1.   Achievement

This is largely met through how we pay and reward staff. In the current environment, it’s a given that we pay our staff competitively, but employers should also differentiate good performance from average or poor performance and tie-in rewards.

Business owners & managers who do this well:

  • Set clear expectations by which performance is evaluated
  •  Demand high performance
  • Ensure their staff receive rewards and recognition

It’s important to spend time with staff and find out what motivates them from a reward perspective. This is likely to be different from one employee to the next.

2.   Belonging

This is usually reflected in the culture of the organisation where an organisation fosters mutual reliance and friendship amongst co-workers, values collaboration and teamwork, and encourages sharing of best practices.

Business owners & managers who do this well:

  • Make employees feel a part of the teamMake employees feel a part of the team to keep them engaged.
  • Are people orientated
  • Care about their employees on a personal level

Prospective employees will look for organisations with values that match their own.

3.   Challenge

This is ensuring that each job has an element that gives the staff member opportunities for learning, problem-solving, and some creativity. It‘s also important that the employee understands their role and how important it is to the company goals.

Business owners & managers who do this well:

  • Empower team members
  • Give staff challenging tasks
  • Assist staff to learn & grow

No matter what industry, providing employees with opportunities for continuing education can be highly motivating.

4.   Depend

This is reflected in the staff member feeling safe and knowing they can depend on the organisation to look after them fairly. Performance management is a key part of this so that any concerns/issues can be handled with transparency and fairness.

Business owners & managers who do this well:Embedded in this is that business owners & managers need to normalise asking for help.

  • Create a psychologically safe environment
  • Treat all staff fairly with dignity and respect
  • Encourages staff to speak up and listen to what they have to say

Embedded in this is that business owners & managers need to normalise asking for help.


When even a slight improvement in any of the above occurs, overall employee motivation shows a corresponding improvement. It’s when all parts are enhanced together that staff show the greatest improvement in motivation and ultimately performance.

The upside is that engaged and motivated staff are more likely to stay and be advocates for your farm business and attract other staff, which is gold in a competitive environment.

Source: Groysberg & Abrahams. “Keep your Weary Workers Engaged and Motivated”, Harvard Business Review, 8 October 2020

For more information

For further information, please contact your local RSM office