People are interested in becoming part of the New Zealand dairy industry by the opportunities to build their own business, work with livestock and be in the outdoors. Making this vision a reality for people on farms and for new entrants to the industry is a shared responsibility for everybody and particularly for sharemilkers and farm owners. This has required an industry focus on people management, human relations and health and safety. In 2015, a two year establishment project was begun by DairyNZ to build increased capability in work place compliance, team leadership and career development amongst on-farm teams.
The project (called People Lift) involved farm teams from 24 farms as well as certified People Management Consultants and DairyNZ extension staff. The strategic design integrated industry-good with paid consultancy and extension events with one-on-one farmer contact. Farmers and farm staff engaged in a programme of on-farm visits, regional workshops and developing planning tools.
The People Lift programme has been externally evaluated each year using mixed methods combining quantitative questionnaires (e.g. the Gallup survey) and narratives from the Most Significant Change method. Each year’s results have been analysed using NVivo® before being reviewed by all the project participants. One participant said, ”We are doing the project because we want to make people want to farm. We want this to be their career by choice and not by default … As an employer, I value their ideas and opinions. It’s all about giving them a voice …” Generally, the responses were positive although one farmer left the programme because they felt “that there had been a lack of progress”.
As the establishment phase of the People Lift is completed in 2017, the People Management Consultants are preparing to continue its results with new groups of farmers. Their challenges are to address the wide range of expectations amongst sharemilkers and farmers about the types of skills required for working with people, and how they can make their programmes and planning tools accessible to busy farming teams.
Terry Parminter, John Greer & Lee Astridge, 2018. Fostering change in people management – the DairyNZ ‘People Lift’ Project. Rural Extension and Innovative Systems Journal, vol 14, no. 1, p161-166.