Regular company get-togethers are a good way to build a team and show appreciation to employees, says Larry Gibson, owner of Gibson Family Farms, Morocco, IN.

Along with a 1,000-head beef feedlot, Gibson runs a custom mowing, raking, merging and chopping business. Year-round, he manages 20 full-time employees. During the corn harvest season in August and September, when he has five self-propelled choppers in the field, the work force swells to 50 people.

At the start of the year, Gibson invites employees to an afternoon-long, catered barbecue at the farm.

“It gives everybody a chance to get to know one another a little better in a relaxed atmosphere,” he says. “And it gives us the opportunity to go over our plans and goals with the group. It's a way to get everyone on the same page before the season gets going full swing.”

Gibson also holds an annual employee Christmas party at a local restaurant. Along with bonuses, the company gives small gifts to each employee and spouse.

“It's one more reminder that we appreciate the contributions they make to the success of our business throughout the year.”

On another level, Gibson looks for day-to-day opportunities to recognize employees for doing excellent jobs.

“When we're really going at it during the corn silage season, we'll get on the FM radio at the end of the day and say ‘Hey, Joe did 2,800 tons today,’” he explains. “That guy gets to puff out his chest a little bit, and the other guys get motivated, too. They're thinking that if he did 2,800 tons today, they can do 3,000 tons the next day. It might sound like a little thing, but it can have a pretty big impact on employee morale.”

Providing opportunities for employees to attend educational seminars and farm shows has been an effective perk for Don Leonard, Don's Hay Service, Brush, CO. He does custom hay planting and baling on nearly 2,000 acres in northeastern Colorado. During a typical season, his work force numbers three full-time employees and seven or eight seasonal workers.

This year, Leonard is paying the registration fee for one of his employees to attend a day-long, large-baler maintenance clinic conducted by a local equipment dealer. “Technology is changing all the time, and it's a challenge to stay updated. If I make an investment in an employee to get more training, it benefits all of us,” he says.

In February, he also helped an employee defray expenses on a trip to World Ag Expo in Tulare, CA.

“He was going to go on his own as part of his vacation,” says Leonard. “But we offered to help him out with lodging costs. We figured we'd benefit too, because when he got back, he could share the information he picked up there with the rest of us.”

Leonard's bottom line: “We want our people to know that they're more than just a number or another body. Their presence and their input are valued.”