Dairy farm workplaces are being affected by technological change, changing employee expectations and increased competition for staff. To ensure they're attracting and retaining talented staff in 2030, we need to prepare for change.
That’s why, through a levy-funded project called New Workplace Design, DairyNZ is currently working alongside farmers to understand global workplace trends and map a path for dairy farms to become workplaces of choice. We’re focusing on dairy farms of 2030 to generate thinking beyond today’s issues.
The project aims to identify a variety of future solutions by examining best practice and technology from a wide range of cross-sector workplaces, then applying these to a dairy context.
Nine South Island farmers put their hands up in February 2019 to be part of a series of innovation workshops. Insights from other farm teams throughout New Zealand identified current dairy workplace challenges.
As part of the design process, the nine-strong farmer team also visited Auckland businesses to understand the pressures faced by non-agricultural workplaces, and their responses. The team talked to experts from Spark, Fonterra, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Datacom, Human Synergistics and Auckland University, along with an intercultural coach and business consultant.
The farmer design team proposed a range of ideas, and six were selected for development and on-farm testing this season. Their game-changing ideas (see table to the right) included better use of technology to enhance on-farm learning for new employees, task-scheduling systems so employees or contractors can choose flexible job packages, and the use of non-hierarchical ‘agile’ team management methods in farm teams. These concepts are being piloted and assessed with some members of the farmer team this season. Successful ideas will be rolled out to interested farmers across the country in the next season.
Three scenarios for the future of work
DairyNZ is also working with a national group to unpack global workplace trends using three scenarios:
- For a high-tech future, we’ll need highly skilled people and access to people from non-agricultural backgrounds.
- For a future with new ways of learning, novice staff will be trained as needed, but will progress to having skills which are transferable to other industries.
- In a future with high demographic change, we’ll need to provide a good community environment and an attractive work environment to a ’choosy’ workforce.
The group will use these scenarios to determine the principles that underpin great future dairy farm workplaces. From there, the group will create a ‘roadmap’ to help the dairy sector begin to implement these principles.
Six prototype ideas to create great dairy workplaces
1. Disrupting traditional dairy roles - using less hierarchical team structures to empower and engage the whole team
2. Alternative milking windows - a focus on maintaining profitability while improving the workplace and reducing burnout
3. Operation choice - a tool to match tasks to people and expand labour availability into the local community
4. Transferable, measured potential - development, training, and formal recognition of skills that are transferable both inside and outside of dairy
5. Technology in training - a transformation in the way we standardise, develop, and deliver training through better use of technology
6. Breeding better leaders - valuing people leadership and EQ development over traditional transactional skills
To read more about the project, or to register for updates, see dairynz.co.nz/new-workplace-design
This article was originally published in Inside Dairy November 2019