Building employee loyalty through involvement

How can you build employee loyalty? Table Rock Farm, Inc. of Castile, NY provides an example of one way to do just that.

We all want employee loyalty. It is essential for the success of the farm operation as it is for any business. We have to be able to trust that employees will do what is best for the business. That’s what we all want, but how do you get it?

To be sure, there is more than one way, or more than one answer to that question. I’d like to share with you one way that a farm in Western NY builds employee loyalty and uses that to increase the success of the operation.

Recently, Stan Moore and I visited Table Rock Farm in Castile, NY and spoke with Meghan Hauser, a partner in the operation, and Richard Sanford, a long-time employee. Table Rock builds employee loyalty by having employees take part in the decision-making and by providing access to the information necessary in order to make good decisions.

At Table Rock Farm, Inc. they milk 1,000 cows, farm around 1,600 acres with 28 full and part-time employees. Therefore building employee loyalty and maximizing the value of employees is critical. In fact, Meghan says that their employees are the greatest asset the farm has.

They nurture employee involvement on the farm by giving employees the responsibility to research new equipment purchases and other management choices. From washing machines to forage choppers, Meghan and her father Willard De Golyer ask the employees who will be using the equipment to talk with the salespersons and gather the information on various options.

Then, that individual, or in more cases, that group (such as the outside group or the milking group) presents the information to Meghan and Willard with their recommendation. Their recommendation recognizes the cost of the equipment and how it compares to other options and they make their case for the one they recommend. Employees help create partial budgets and net present value worksheets as part of the purchase process and use these tools to best evaluate multiple options.

One of the key components of Table Rock’s relationship with their employees is that the owners also provide regular information on farm performance back to the employees. Each month, employees get a sheet showing the current month’s expenses in various budget areas with a year-to-date total and a comparison to the previous year. In this way, employees can track how the decisions being made are impacting farm expenses. In addition, each month, results related to farm goals are posted in farm break rooms.

Farm financials are shared with all employees each year at the farm’s annual off-site meeting. After ten years of annual meetings, Meghan says this is one of the strongest things they have done for the success of the farm. Farm financials are shared, goals are discussed, lunch is provided and invited speakers provide some education. Extension experts act as moderators. All employees are part of the team that moves forward for greater success.

Richard Sanford, the outside manager, says that the fact that Table Rock owners share the financial information shows the trust they have in the employees and that makes him feel good. Many of the 28 employees have been with the farm for a dozen or more years. Richard says that is “because we have a say.”

Table Rock Farm is successful at building the loyalty of their employees by involving them and providing them the information they need in order to make good decisions for the farm. But then, they believe that it just makes good sense to do that.

You can learn more about giving employees a stake in the business at the MSU Extension Dairy Team winter meetings February 20-24. For more information, and to register, go to  

Build greater loyalty among your employees and as a result, your operation will achieve new levels that you may not have thought possible before.

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