Friday, 16 November 2012

We Must Look After Our Good Staff on Dairy Farms

We must look after our good staff on Dairy Farms. 

How do we prevent the increasing “churn” of employed staff?  Turnover (or tenure) of staff employed on NZ dairy farms is expensive. There is a general feeling that the “churn” of dairy farm staff is getting faster. 

The NZ dairy industry doesn’t compare well with other employment sectors. The greatest “Churn” appears to be amongst the young or in the first year that people are in the job.
“Annual churn out of the industry is estimated at 15% for 2010/11 with a cost of $64 million to the industry in lost investment.
 Tenure of staff within their job is approximately 1.6 years on average, leading to an estimated turnover in the order of 60% of staff annually within each farm business. This equates to 11,400 jobs being vacated and filled annually.” Geoff Taylor DairyNZ.
From an OneFarm survey (Tipples & Greenhalgh) of 480 AgITO trainees (2011):
Average time spent working in current position 1.6 years (median 1 year)
40% of respondents had been in their current position for less than 1 year
Average time respondents have spent working in the dairy industry 3.8 years (median 3 years) Range 1 month-25 years
The Californian dairy industry has data over time reported by Gregorio Billikopf from the University of California that indicates an improvement.

There are some excellent online resources that could help dairy farm employers do a better job of keeping good staff.
         I was most impressed with a webinar called “Getting to We” presented by Dr Bob Erven from Ohio State University. Bob is part of an AgHR network which includes Ag professionals from USA, Canada, Australia, NZ & Chile. This is an interesting concept that farm employers should adopt. It means changing the culture of the farm business.
 “How do employees make the transition from thinking of it as ‘your’ business to thinking of it as ‘our’ business?” Dr Bob Erven.
There are 7 changes needed to change the farm work culture to “We”
1.  Commitment from Top Management
2. A supporting organizational culture
3. Employees compatible with the “We” culture
4.  A change process of Unfreeze>Change> Refreeze
5.   Delegation & Empowerment
6.  Communication
7.  Rewards
(be patient it takes a little time to get started)
  OneFarm (The Centre of Excellence in Farm Business Management in New Zealand) has produced a very good webinar presented by Justine Kidd. Justine spoke about keeping the right staff. This webinar (with downloadable presentation notes) looks at improving staff retention. 

 How can Farmers Retain the Right Staff    A must see webinar!
It is estimated that losing & replacing a farm staff member costs you approximately 1.5X the annual salary of the person you lose. These costs include advertising, interviewing, lost productivity & training the new staff member. “Churn” is very expensive and is a threat to animal welfare & environmental compliance.
Spot the Cumbrian Farmers from the UK visiting NZ
The Questions get harder
I was really pleased to attend a Dairyman Field day at Gary and Val Wright of Longbeach Dairies in Canterbury and see an attempt by the Headlands Consultancy group to include HR Metrics and environmental measures in their competition as well as profitability.  

I’m left feeling very uncomfortable about what’s happening within the NZ dairy industry regarding staff turnover or “Churn”. 

Young people are our most valuable resources on a dairy farm. What are we doing to them? Is it the systems on the farms or the lack of skilled HR management of people? 
What are your thoughts?