Employee Engagement: The key to retaining talent and passion on New Zealand’s Dairy Farms.

Executive Summary

Historically Dairy farming was seen as an attractive career path where hard work and dedication was rewarded with the trophy of farm ownership, but that reward is all but out of the grasp of most; this amongst a plethora of other reasons has led to an ever increasing struggle to attract and retain talented individuals on farm.  With 60% of new entrants to the dairy industry leaving within the first twelve months, retention is a very real issue on our dairy farms. Research has shown engaged employees are not only less likely to leave the farm or organisation, but when employees are engaged, the organisation will be both more productive and profitable.

New Zealand is a food producing nation which prides itself on the story we have to tell, often overlooked though is that people are at the heart of that story. Improving employee engagement on farm will help dairy farmers be better employers, and ultimately better equipped to retain employees. The aim of this report is to better understand the concept of employee engagement and how it can be understood, measured, and created. Employee engagement is a concept that is not unique to any specific business type or size, therefore can be applied to any farm situation regardless of the number of employees.

Gallup is an organisation with over thirty years of research on employee engagement. Gallup is used by thousands of organisations globally with the intention of identifying areas where employee engagement is lacking and may be improved. Gallup employee engagement surveys consist of twelve questions which directly relate to twelve basic human needs.  Humans are social and phycological beings who must be understood and known as people not just as employees.

An investigation into employee engagement at FMG, has been carried out. FMG is an organisation with a highly engaged workforce and a very apparent focus on people, ranking in the 76th percentile globally in the Gallup employee engagement survey. FMG uses the service profit chain, a model which puts people at the centre of everything, where happy employees leads to increased productivity and happy clients  and happy clients lead to increased profitability of the organisation.  Themes and learnings can be taken from this case study and practically applied to an on farm environment.

The recommendations of this report are intended to be able to be easily applied in farm to aid in improving the engagement of employees, recommendations are as follows;

  • Provide development opportunities.
  • Give feedback and recognition.
  • Share and discuss purpose.
  • Give flexibility and autonomy where possible.
  • Improving employee engagement takes time.

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