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Working towards a committed and enthusiastic workforce

December 2020

Marius Greyling, Pula Imvula contributor. Send an email to mariusg@mcgacc.co.za  

Farmers are under a severe cost pressure caused by the steady increase of the prices of inputs including minimum wages. A way to counter the pressure is to increase productivity. In previous articles we have discussed alternative ways to either increase income and/or to decrease cost to maintain a sustainable profit.

Basically, farmers must attempt to farm bigger and/or better to maintain sustainable profits. It is therefore necessary to approach the attempt to maintain profits from different angles.

In this article we will focus on the employees of a business and their relationship with their employer known as labour relations. Financial pressure is forcing owners/managers of a business to look differently at their workforce. Employee costs have risen considerably and are these days one of the higher costs of a business. 

Productivity on a farm relates to the number of employees performing a task, the time taken to perform the task and the result of the employee’s efforts. When employees are more productive, they save time and/or use resources more efficiently with better results. The result being lower costs and/or higher income.

To get a job done people are involved and they use other resources (tools and equipment) therefore job = people x resources. People are thus a fundamental part of getting a job/task done and their attitude is important. The principles to be discussed are applicable whether you have only one employee or more. 

In the early day’s employers did not realise the importance of the attitude of employees on productivity. The general idea was that people did not want to work, they had to be forced and were abused to get them to do a job. The result was very poor labour relations. Things went so bad that eventually government attempted to regulate this relationship by law. In South Africa we have several labour laws including the Labour Relationship Act. By abiding to the prescripts of the laws, employers are already addressing an improvement in relations. However, there is more to establishing sound relations than just the matters addressed in the laws.

It has been widely reported that the attitude of employees has a major influence on productivity. Employee relations are a key element of workplace happiness and employee engagement. With poor management of staff, the result is a negative attitude of the staff, and vice versa. Employees with a negative attitude will work slowly, do a specific task haphazardly, damage tools and other resources, deliver work of a poor standard, come late for work, take unnecessary sick leave, and so forth. These are all counterproductive actions leading to lower productivity. 

Having good relationships with your workforce will increase productivity and thus increase your profits.

When employees are motivated and managed properly, they will have a positive attitude and will be committed to perform responsibly and will be loyal employees. The result – improved productivity. The challenge for employers is how to treat employees to motivate them to be productive. Working with people can be rather difficult because of differences in personality traits, emotions, abilities, behaviour, and actions. 

Briefly, you must treat your employees as human beings and as you would like a manager to treat you. Treat your employees with dignity, respect, be fair under all circumstances, recognise their efforts, give them responsibility, train them properly and reward them appropriately. Communicate regularly with your employees regarding your vision and mission and aims of the business and their role in achieving this. Do not forget to communicate with your employees regarding their performance and provide recognition and appreciation when necessary for a job well-done. Do not bad-mouth your employees. But also, be firm and strict in what you expect from them. If an employee has transgressed, take the necessary steps according to your disciplinary procedure and code. In this regard also treat them fairly and strictly.

When advising that you must treat your employees as human beings, we are not implicating that you must treat them as a ‘pal’, far from that.

To achieve high productivity and ensure all-round business excellence, you need buy-in from your employees. You need a committed enthusiastic workforce. To achieve this, you must also consider the way you appoint people. Ensure you know what qualities you are looking for. Have you got a proper job analysis? Do you provide any in-house training? Do you know the strengths and weaknesses of each employee and do you utilise them accordingly? The point is, how can you manage your workforce if you do not know every individual? To be productive a person must be motivated and have a positive attitude and the necessary abilities and skills.

Manage your workforce with wisdom to increase productivity and thus increase your profits. Higher productivity can result in reducing costs and/or increasing income, resulting in better profits which will be to the benefit of all involved with the business – employer and employees. 

Publication: December 2020

Section: Pula/Imvula