Agribusiness consultant Natasha Searle has observed firsthand the challenges growers experience finding the ‘right staff’ for their farming operation.
Speaking at the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Farm Business Updates in regional New South Wales recently, the Dubbo-based specialist from Rural Directions urged growers to re-assess their approach to managing people within their business.
“Growers are encouraged to look within, reviewing their own people and business management capabilities, and to have a very clear idea about the skillsets and attributes they need in a prospective employee and then ‘employ on attitude and train on skills’,” Mrs Searle said.
Her organisation has been a part of a GRDC investment (RDP00013) looking at the management decision points that separate the top performing growers from the rest. The research has identified the critical impact effective human resource management has on farm profitability.
“This research has identified ‘people and management’ as one of the primary drivers of profit,” Mrs Searle said.
“High performing farm businesses take a professional approach to resource management and human resource management is at the core of this.
“These growers are achieving their business goals through superior implementation ability, which is achieved through a clear vision and strategy, defined culture, clearly communicated expectations, confident decision-making processes, effective resourcing and an attitude of continuous improvement and innovation.”
She said when growers identify a need to increase labour the first step is to ‘plan the position’.
“Planning is the key to a successful recruitment process and ultimately helps that newly recruited person to understand the expectations and responsibilities of the role, and ensures you as a manager have thought through critical elements, like the purpose of the position, job description, skills and attributes and compliance with employment legislation,” she said.
“Employees, both family and non-family, are motivated by more than wages. In my experience people put safety and wellbeing, flexible work conditions, a great business and team culture, good communication and leadership high on their list of needs.”
Mrs Searle said when it came to making the most of your employees the GRDC investment identified ‘implementation and timeliness’ as key factors for growers managing human resources in a cropping operation.
“Farm managers are key influencers within the business and influence the team. This project identified six primary characteristics of the top 20 per cent of farm managers, which ensures successful implementation and timeliness of operations.”
She said high performing farmers share these common characteristics:
- A systematised pattern of work that they are constantly refining.
- The ability to take a helicopter view of business when under pressure.
- Taking personal responsibility for key decisions, but having collaborative approach to problem solving.
- Focused on elements within their control.
- Super implementation ability and recognising where additional skills or training are needed.
- Strong observation skills.
“Growers who are effective human resource managers and who handle the other primary profit drivers (gross margin optimisation, low cost business model, risk management) well are regularly retaining a much greater percentage of turnover as net profit before tax,” Mrs Searle said.
“People are one of the most valuable resources available to a farming business and while finding the right people to fit your operation can be challenging, it is important growers look at their management and what areas they have control over and can influence when it comes to attracting and retaining labour.
“An ‘employer of choice’ understands what motivates employees, and they work hard to implement effective recruitment, engagement and retention.”
GRDC Senior Regional Manager North Jan Edwards has worked in the paddock and in research and said people were a key part of business success across all of agriculture.
“This research helps qualify what our industry’s highest performing business operators are doing differently when it comes to people management,” she said.
For more details about this project visit the GRDC website.