Engage Your Team to Retain Quality Employees

Posted on October 5, 2015 in Swine Performance
By Dr. Leah Gesing

The list of challenges facing pork producers can sometimes seem overwhelming.  The threat of new or emerging diseases, impending new rules on the use of antibiotics, and the ongoing challenge of maintaining profitability top the lists of many producers’ concerns.

Another crucial challenge for swine operations is the need to find and retain quality employees.

As we all know, a career in the swine industry is certainly not for everyone.  Working in swine production is almost never going to be the “easiest” job out there, which makes it all the more important for managers to focus on retaining the quality employees that they do have.

Psychologists Dr. Edward Deci and Dr. Richard Ryan developed the Self-Determination Theory.  This theory focuses on what motivates people and what conditions provide for optimal functioning.  They claim that all people have three basic psychological needs:

  • The need for competence
  • The need for relatedness
  • The need for autonomy

Applying the principles of this theory when managing and working with your employees may ultimately make the workplace a more fulfilling place for all and will hopefully translate to higher retention of good employees.  Below are descriptions of the theory’s three psychological needs, along with some examples of how these principles may be applied to motivating your employees.

Competence: People have the need to master their environments and to know how things will turn out, and they want to grow and flourish in their jobs. 

  • Provide adequate training to new employees.
  • Make sure they know who to go to with questions and concerns and make sure they feel comfortable doing so.
  • Consider incentives for employees who do their jobs well or rewards for those who exceed your expectations in performing their duties.  This may include monetary incentives or the opportunity for promotion.  For example, the potential for promotion to section manager can be enticing, both monetarily and because it provides the possibility for the employee to take on a greater leadership role.

Relatedness: People have the need to feel connected to others while contributing to something greater than themselves.  

  • Create a “family” within your group of employees.  After all, in many cases, employees spend more waking hours at work than with their actual family members.  Organizing things like periodic gatherings or events outside of work may foster that family mentality.
  • Engage all employees in your process for reaching production targets.  This will help them feel like part of something larger by working together in reaching goals.  Celebrating together when those goals are met is also important.

Autonomy: People have the need for free will and to be able to act out of their own interests or values.  

  • Don’t micro-manage your employees.  Instead, allow them to have some degree of freedom in making decisions.  This principal could apply to anything from letting the employee take the lead in determining how to tackle an increase in pre-weaning mortality to allowing them more independence in determining how and when they’ll accomplish the tasks on their to-do lists.
  • Allowing more freedom in decision making will hopefully lead to more engaged, higher-performing employees day in and day out.

Retaining key employees is crucial for of any successful operation.  That said, it is neither a quick nor a concrete process.  Motivating and retaining quality employees requires continual communication between you and your team.  The Vita Plus Swine Nutrition team is vested in helping you achieve your business goals, including employee motivation and team success.  We can work with you to brainstorm strategies that will work well with your team in achieving your production goals.

About the author:  Dr. Leah Gesing is a Vita Plus swine technical sales and support specialist.  She earned her bachelor’s degree in animal science from Iowa State University.  She continued there to earn her master’s degree in animal physiology, studying on-farm factors affecting market hog transport losses.  She then went on to the University of Illinois to earn her Ph.D. in animal sciences.  While in school, Gesing was involved with numerous research projects, teaching experiences, internships, and international travel.  Specifically, she conducted applied research in swine genetics, health, management and reproduction with Dr. Mike Ellis.  Her Ph.D. project evaluated the effect of timing of OvuGel® administration on reproductive performance in gilts synchronized for estrus.

Category: Business management
Swine Performance