Insights into finding and keeping good people


3 min read

Employee market insights What employees are looking for Setting up for success Additional resources

Employing someone new is a critical business decision. The right person will add value to your team and your business. The wrong person will add workload and stress. Knowing what matters to employees in New Zealand and understanding the job market will help you attract the right individuals to your business. This, in turn, ensures a strong team on your farm and contributes to building a robust talent pool for the dairy sector’s future.

Running a good recruitment process is a critical step in finding “the one”, however this may not be enough on its own. Demographic changes, immigration policy fluctuations, competition from other farms, and more importantly from other sectors are influencing our ability to find good people. Understanding the changing environment is a good first step in designing roles and terms and conditions of employment that will help you attract high quality people ahead of the competition.

Employee turnover is an inevitable cost to any business. The goal is to minimise unexpected turnover to allow you to plan and keep your business running smoothly. The benefits to keeping and developing your team are:

  • A more enjoyable work environment.
  • The team functions better.
  • Reduced turnover in the team.
  • Reduced hours and fewer late finishes.
  • Increased ability for the team to get onto the important rather than just the urgent jobs.
  • Improved personal wellbeing and job satisfaction.

Employee market insights

Finding quality employees is increasingly challenging due to a decline in the number of working age New Zealanders. This shortage affects many sectors nationwide, intensifying competition for talented people. Rural areas find it even tougher as young people gravitate toward urban living, a trend echoed around the world.

Demographics are changing within New Zealand and we know that:

  • By 2048 the average age in New Zealand will be 6.5 years older than today.
  • The 20 – 30-year-old age group (a significant part of the dairy workforce) has been steadily declining over the last 10 years.
  • Population changes are expected to vary widely by region with most growth focused in urban centres.

These locked-in demographic changes challenge dairy sector employers to adapt their businesses and design roles that will be attractive to a more diverse workforce.

If the dairy sector can get this right, we can improve our ability to keep and grow our share of the workforce.


Reliance on immigration has risks

It’s unlikely that we’ll ever have the social approval needed to allow the level of immigration required to fill all the gaps in the labour market. We must also acknowledge that immigration policy will flex with changes in the New Zealand economy. A higher unemployment rate will typically see immigration policy tightened making it much harder to bring in international workers on visas. Relying entirely on immigration to meet your employment needs is therefore a risky approach. You can mitigate that risk by designing your business to appeal to individuals from diverse backgrounds.

What employees are looking for

Good people have choices when looking for a job so farming businesses need to put their best foot forward to stand out from others. As dairy farmers we are used to thinking about how we compete for employees with the farm down the road, however the changing nature of the population and the sector means we must think more broadly about how we compare to options outside the sector.

Every person is unique and will seek different things from a job. However, everyone wants fair remuneration for their skills, a safe work environment, a good manager, and good team culture. Without offering such an environment and leadership to your team, retaining them might prove challenging.

DairyNZ researched how the dairy sector could attract more job seekers by interviewing individuals not currently employed in our sector, whom we believe would suit farm assistant roles. The key insights were:

  • Higher pay means more applicants. This means the pay rate needs to be stated up front and be easily comparable with other roles, making hourly rates a valuable tool. You can use the competitiveness calculator to assist with this.
  • People are prepared to work longer hours, but they want the ability to choose and to be paid at a competitive rate for every hour they work.
  • Reliable and reasonable rostered days off are crucial.
  • Early starts are not particularly attractive, so either a premium generally needs to be paid or the structure of the working day changed.
  • A good team culture is critical. It is as important as the hours worked.
  • People want a great boss and career opportunities. Farm location matters less than you think. The factors above are more important.

Setting up for Success

Take a look at the Finding and Employing Good People section to understand how the New Zealand workforce is evolving, potential future changes, and ways to adapt your business to compete with other farms and other sectors. This will set you up well for recruiting, onboarding, and keeping the right people in your business.

To attract and retain good people farm businesses need to:

You can also reach out to the below sector partners who can provide support in this area:

Last updated: May 2024

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