Farm management: Human resources – good productivity reduces costs (Part 3)

The last in our human resources series looks at the link between what a worker is paid and what is expected in return.

Many people think that if they pay their staff well, it’s enough to keep them happy and they will therefore work well. But it’s been shown many times, for example, that even when people are paid well they will move to other jobs because they felt they didn’t get the recognition they deserved.

Also read:
Human resources – how to handle your people (Part 1)
Human resources – communication and training (Part 2)


This term means more than a person’s pay at the end of the month. A remuneration package includes all the benefits a worker receives, and can include housing, food, work clothing, leave, medical aid, pension and whatever else an employer has to offer.

Remuneration is also a form of recognition. Make a good offer and you’ll attract good people; the opposite also applies.

I’m not going to tell you how much to pay and what other benefits to give; you have to work them out for yourself. I do, however, want to make you aware of some of the fundamentals of good human resources management.

Remuneration packages differ from farm to farm, and for the smaller farmer it would be difficult, if not impossible, to offer a full “basket” of benefits as listed above. That doesn’t mean a farmer should not try to offer the best he can.

The days of paying workers just enough to keep them on the farm are long gone. Today, workers have many rights, including a minimum wage laid down by law. The wise farmer will do all he can to make sure his workers get what’s due to them, and if he can afford to add a little extra, all the better.

The better a worker’s productivity, the lower the cost to you. Try to link pay to performance.

It’s not always easy to do, but it can be done. For example:

  • If a worker packs vegetables, adding a bonus per unit on top of the wage he/she already earns will help increase productivity. Make sure workers pack to required standards; if they don’t – no bonus.
  • A tractor driver can be rewarded for keeping the repair and running costs of the machine down. The lower the repair costs, the better the bonus you can give him.

The most expensive workers are the ones who do least and require constant supervision. They either need more training, or to be put in jobs where they might perform more efficiently.

As the employer, you need to work out very carefully what you can afford in pay and other benefits, before you commit to a worker.

There are 3 important principles:
1. All workers must know what the total package they will receive includes, and what you expect from them in return.
2. Everyone must understand that employment is a two-way street, and for it to be successful both employer and employee need to contribute. You can’t afford to carry people who cost you money.
3. Well-paid workers are not expensive because they deliver more. Those who don’t deliver are expensive, even if their remuneration is lower.


Most of us respond well to being given responsibility. Of course, there are always the exceptions, but you’ll soon identify them. Make sure they move on to work elsewhere, or train them to do something else on the farm. If you don’t take some action, these people will end up costing you money.

Remember that when you give somebody responsibility, he or she must be able to do the job. If they’re not qualified for it, they could end up being unsuccessful and unhappy. If the person has been trained and understands what’s expected, he or she will produce good results. And when that happens, make sure you give generous, sincere, recognition.

Many employers forget two important aspects of responsibility:
1. make sure the worker gives you regular feedback on the job being done, and keeps you up to date with how things are going. This will help you identify problem areas before they get out of control; and to communicate with the responsible worker so that he or she knows that what they’re doing accords with your plans and instructions. It helps keep them on track.
2. Responsibility is also about accountability. Someone who’s given a task and is responsible for it, must be prepared to be accountable for his or her actions.

A good employer explains this in advance so that the employee is comfortable with accounting for what he or she has done. This means not only being accountable when things go wrong, but also when they go well.

  • This article was written by Michael Cordes and first appeared in Farming SA.

share this