A People Approach
Every dairy farm involves people. From single person managers or owners to large corporate farms, the ability to effectively engage people to operate the farm business is relevant.
A realistic goal for any farm business should be to ensure that the business is not constrained by people issues.
The trends in the industry are increasing herd sizes and more people being employed. If the industry is to attract and retain good people it must be competitive with other industries. Although remuneration plays a part, there are other factors that make a business attractive to work in.
Visit the real stories section to find out how other farmers manage their people issues and get some ideas you can use on your own farm.
What do ‘people efficient’ farm businesses have in common? There will be some fundamental strategic issues that are right on these farms. The business:
- has a well thought out strategic vision;
- is adequately resourced in terms of infrastructure and capability to match the strategy;
- has well defined roles and appropriately appointed responsibilities.
‘People efficient’ farms will be productive, smoothly running farms where people want to stay and growing the business is an attractive option. These farms:
- have invested wisely in technology;
- have efficient work practices;
- are well laid out and in good order;
- have simplified farming systems to accommodate people’s needs.
There are also a number of generic human resource management principles that are common to any well managed human resource management program regardless of the size of the business:
- effective recruitment and selection processes;
- clear and unambiguous contracts and agreements for all staff;
- documented position descriptions;
- documented standard operating procedures;
- documented and practiced safety protocols;
- induction programs;
- regular performance appraisals;
- exit interviews;
- flexible work rosters where people are working reasonable hours;
- documented strategic plans;
- documented plans for the future of people working in the business;
- training programs;
- regular meetings;
- effective team work
The major challenges we face are:
- Attracting retaining and developing good people
- Having a satisfactory work-life balance
- Being fairly rewarded for our efforts
- Managing risk adequately
The first step is understanding the drivers of people issues on farm. An exploration of people issues with farmers, consultants, HR specialists and researchers identified 4 fundamental principles as the keys to success for working with people on farm. These are:
- Consider all the people on the farm (not just employees)
- Adapt the way things are done on the farm to suit people
- Have the right people doing the right jobs at the right time
- Establish and maintain effective working relationships
Underpinning these four principles are four approaches that will help achieve change:
- Use the resources available on this website to get the best people outcomes for the farm
- Take practical steps from what is currently being done on the farm to get to where you want the farm to be
- Take action at multiple levels of business decisions (the Navigator includes business strategy, availability of resources, defining and allocating roles for individuals and working as a team)
- Get advice from off-farm team members to enhance outcomes
Where to start?
The People Snapshot provides an easy to use self-assessment tool to help identify areas in which you are doing well and others areas that need your attention.
The ‘Navigator’ is a way of identifying how people issues infiltrate a dairy farm business. Rather than taking a ‘symptomatic’ approach to people issues, the ‘Navigator’ takes a holistic view.
For example, on a farm struggling to keep people, the owners may assume people are leaving because they aren’t being paid enough for the hours they are working or because of workplace conflicts.
However, these issues are most likely not the root cause, they are probably just symptoms of other problems in the farm business. To seek out the underlying cause/s the farm owners need to think more broadly than pay and working conditions. Working through the levels of the Navigator, prompts consideration of the broader people issues such as:
- Do the owners have realistic expectations of what can be achieved?
- Is the farm adequately resourced to achieve its goals?
- Has enough effort and thought been put into how the farm operates?
- Are roles and responsibilities clear and are the right people in these roles?
- Are individuals trained, coached, rewarded and given reasonable time off?
- Is the team well enough equipped and managed to deliver high performance?
Much of what makes a farm a good workplace comes down to the quality of the leadership and the ability to gain the respect of the people working on the farm. Likewise, the culture of the business influences how well a farm performs. The effects of leadership and culture filter down through everything the farm does, that is why they sit at the top of the ‘Navigator’.
Do People work better if they know where the business is headed and have adopted the farm culture.
People become frustrated if they don’t have the resources to fulfill their roles and complete tasks.
Things happen more smoothly and safely if the farming system is adapted to suit people and well documented.
It is easier to find and retain the people the farm needs if the roles required to achieve all the work are well defined.
Each person is more likely to contribute and stay on the farm if they understand their responsibilities and tasks, which are documented in a position description and contract of employment, and they receive quality induction, appropriate rewards, regular performance reviews, good training and a plan for their future career and wealth creation.
People work better together if there is effective communication, respect for others, regular team meetings and a clear process for resolving disputes.
People issues can be very complex and it is often a good idea to seek some help from an adviser. These advisers have completed human resource training specifically tailored to the dairy industry.