ACT Like A Pro, Issue 146

Motivation is critical to all businesses. So what is it?

Motivation is about deep engagement in whatever an individual is doing. In business, motivated employees help with focus, attitude, productivity, and company culture. -Sarah Beth Aubrey

Let’s dig into this idea of motivation a little deeper.

Motivation plays a role in:

  1. Performance
  2. Safety
  3. Retention
  4. Morale
  5. Culture

1. Performance

When I talk about motivation, I’m not talking about people who we describe as motivated. These folks are self-motivated people, but everyone has an individual motivation, a value that they hold dear. A motivation value might be monetary, self-fulfillment in a job well done, flexibility, or leadership positions.

Employees that could use the most growth may not be self-motivated; they may be motivated by money, flexibility, leadership and self-importance roles. Understanding what motivates employees is a good first step to understanding how to ensure they are the most productive.

While meeting everyone’s needs in an ag or agribusiness operation isn’t always possible (job hour flexibility and time off being two major motivations that are difficult to fully satisfy), an honest conversation about what an employee values (a raise vs. time off vs. a promotion vs. additional responsibilities)

Employees need to buy-in to whatever the operation’s mission is doing; motivation drives that buy-in. As a leader, it’s their job to ensure the whole team has a minimum level of willingness to engage and perform.

Once an employee’s motivation (their values) is being met within their job, performance will increase in kind.

2. Safety

I never tell a leader they can or should accept poor performance; accepting poor performance isn’t fair to the employee and it’s not fair to the other employees either. In agriculture, poor performance is often a safety issue as well.

Especially in agriculture, an unmotivated, distracted, or underperforming employee can be a huge safety concern. Whether it’s dealing with livestock, equipment, technology (like cell phones), or other business essentials, an employee who isn’t motivated to do a satisfactory job can be a safety liability.

3. Retention

Motivation is a key to retaining employees. A satisfied, motivated employee is a lot less likely to go looking for another job; on the flip side, an unsatisfied, unmotivated employee is likely to leave the operation in search of a position that takes into account their motivation (values).

Feeling competent at a job makes an employee feel motivated to do it! For employees that need additional support to find and thrive in their job, evaluate their motivation (their values) and talk about it.

4. Morale

Today’s employees desire connection and support more than ever. Companies will lose good hires in this climate if leaders don’t take care of their connection.

Find the outliers. Motivation for one is motivation for all. When someone isn’t motivated, it can bring down the whole team.

5. Culture

I’m talking about company culture, not ethnic or heritage culture. Every operation, small business, large corporation, or entrepreneur has a company culture.

Culture is either created or allowed. There’s no other option: either a culture is created, or the culture creates itself, often in unhealthy or unintended ways.

When the culture is broken or there’s a crack that’s not addressed, acknowledge the differences between the people can diffuse the barrier and conflict around communication.


To review, motivating employees is a core aspect to high-performing, attentive, safe, happy, employees and a thriving company culture that fits the needs of the business and the desires of its staff.

If you want to hear even more about my talk on motivating employees (and yourself), tune in tomorrow (Wednesday, October 14th) to my podcast, Ag Lead with Sarah Beth Aubrey, where I will be sharing a shortened version of my Farm Journal Field Days panel, “How Do I Motivate “Joe” and Myself?” that aired in August.

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