Having a pool of talented people available for farms is only one side of the equation. There has to be a quality work environment for talent to thrive. Recently, poor compliance with employment law has been highlighted in the media. This is not a good look for the sector and doesn’t help attract the quality people we need. It is up to all of us to do our bit to ensure dairy farming has a reputation as a great place to work.
One of the six commitments in the refreshed industry strategy, Dairy Tomorrow, is to build great workplaces for New Zealand’s most talented workforce. To achieve this aspiration, we will collectively need to achieve several goals including:
- ensuring all farm businesses have best employment practices and quality work environments operated by vibrant and proficient farm teams
- implementing initiatives to inspire, grow and retain dairy talent
- ensuring everyone gets home safe and well every day
- implementing programmes to support and integrate new entrants into the sector and our rural communities
- implementing programmes to build and sustain our governance and management skills-base through diversity and leadership.
The levy is being used to bring about gains in both the talent pipeline and to support farmers to achieve a quality work environment.
DairyNZ is working with Dairy Tomorrow partners, the Government and others to attract, grow and retain the people we need. More than $5.4m is invested in engaging with schools and tertiary institutions, vocational or tertiary training, scholarships, leadership development, rural professional accreditation, mentoring, workforce planning and policy and advocacy to ensure farmers have access to an effective learning and training system that supports a culture of learning in the sector.
Underpinning this investment is research that has shown every dollar an employer invests in staff training results in an extra $3 to $15 profit. That’s a significant payback. The returns are highest for agribusiness management training.
Quality work environment
The Sustainable Dairying Workplace Action Plan (dairynz.co.nz/WAP) sets the foundation for the dairy sector to gain a reputation as a great place to work. The WAP was developed by DairyNZ and Federated Farmers to help the country’s 12,000 diverse dairy businesses adopt good workplace management practices. Launched in 2015, the WAP defines five pillars of good practice needed to create a work environment where good people want to stay, grow and contribute. The five pillars of good people management are:
- balanced and productive work time
- fair remuneration
- wellness, wellbeing, health and safety
- effective team culture
- rewarding careers.
More than 1500 farmers have signed up as friends of the Workplace Action Plan and are receiving support to improve this aspect of their dairy business. Currently, it is estimated that 70 percent of farms meet the criteria, so there is still plenty of room for improvement.
Around $2.3m of the levy is invested annually to support various initiatives under each of the WAP pillars. These include projects to reduce hours worked on farms and drive efficiency, such as FarmTune, Milksmart, once-a-day milking (OAD) and the Roster Builder (dairynz.co.nz/rosterbuilder). Other initiatives aim to support farmers to implement good people management practices by understanding the areas that could be improved, and making change so teams are more motivated and engaged.
Both the talent pipeline and work environment goals have scorecards which measure progress against targets. The high-level measures are published each year in DairyNZ’s annual report (dairynz.co.nz/annualreport). The most recent data indicates good improvement in some of the indicator measures, including having regular days off, set by a roster system within the employment agreement; and not working more than four hours in any day before a break is taken. Other measures are proving stubborn to lift, such as working fewer than 50 hours per week. On the talent side, training volumes are down and farmers are continuing to report challenges with having the skills they need for their farm businesses.
The Dairy Tomorrow strategy has made a commitment to build great workplaces for New Zealand’s most talented workforce. DairyNZ will continue to partner with others and invest levy funds to help farmers achieve this aspiration. But ultimately, it will be up to farmers themselves to take ownership of their vision and invest in attracting and developing the people they need in their farm businesses, using the many opportunities to grow talent and working hard to understand and deliver a great workplace for this talent to thrive.
This article was originally published in Inside Dairy April 2018