Short-term employment of concern
Adisturbing statistic from DairyNZ shows that the average time an employee stays in a job on a dairy farm in New Zealand is only 1.6 years. This is not even two seasons. Statistics are obviously made up of a sample that includes people who have moved three or more times a season, new entrants who come in and decide it is not for them and some who have happily stayed in a role for five or more seasons.
Still as an average stay in a job, 1.6 years is very low.
Sadly one of the areas I have seen a quick turnover of employees is the new entrant level.
Effectively those straight out of school: the much acclaimed generation Y.
Even those raised on farms can struggle with the demands of a calving season. Long hard days for weeks in a row see many give up for something easier, disappointingly leaving what could have been a rewarding and successful career.
I know there are solid young farm workers who have left school, gone on to farms, stayed and progressed.
However, the hardest role I find to fill for farmers is the entry level farm hand. And 1.6 years is not a good statistic.
Farming is hard work through calving and mating but it is not that tough all year round.
It does have swings and roundabouts that make it practical and able to match up against other careers.
Yet we gain nothing by hiding the reality of calving and mating to the farmers’ schedules.
From my observations there are a few things both employers and the young employees can do to help this situation. Tips from employers: The 16 to 20 year old workers are still growing and developing. They often simply don’t have the endurance that someone in their 20s and 30s has developed. It is important to remember and assist with this.
If this is your young worker’s first role and also first time living away from home then guide them a bit, be a mentor as well as a boss.
Make sure they look after themselves by eating well.
Try and rotate some time off for them so that they can get a day here and there even during calving for a break and a rest – they simply need that help.
Talk about your plan in your interview, again in orientation and then regularly in your weekly farm chat over a coffee. This means your workers know what is expected and they have your support and help.
Communication is open as well if they need help with learning in the role or something else is happening. Sometimes that first step into the ‘‘real world’’ and its accompanying ‘‘freedoms’’ is quite a bit for the young worker to successfully get a handle on and a good boss can often be an excellent mentor at these times helping the worker set goals and keep focused so they achieve success. Now for the young employees. The key element for success in any job is your own attitude.
Right from day one your boss actually wants you to succeed and they want to get on with you because it makes the farm work so much better. And here is how you can help. The job needs you there and capable. Agreed you may not know how to do some of the tasks but if you are keen and capable you will learn those – but not if you physically are not looking after yourself. Get your sleep. During calving and mating this will regularly mean go to bed fairly early.
Late night sessions of X-Box, internet surfing and the late night TV is off the agenda until you have days off.
Also leave the nights out with your mates until you can sleep in the next day and relax and recharge.
Eat well – if you are away from home for the first time make yourself a roster to ensure you get yourself good meals and take care of your health.
It isn’t acceptable to start a new job on a farm, stay up late during the season, party on a work night and then be unproductive the next day, or not able to listen to instructions properly. Troubles will start appearing in the relationship with your boss. It is about being responsible. Once you get through this busy part of the season you will then see the full lifestyle and experience of farming and also gives them more time back.
In many careers you need time to develop the depth of knowledge to really do a job well.
Often within two years you will have only developed a superficial level of skill without true understanding.
This is why the 1.6 years is of concern, give yourself longer and every chance to solidify your knowledge base.
If you need any help give me a call at CooperAitken, our team is here to help.