Happy and Healthy at Work.

Building a Successful Recognised Seasonal Employer Team.

Executive summary

Labour and its shortage remain a critical issue that needs addressing, with the growth of horticulture predicted, coupled with on-orchard automation look ing closer to 2030. With low unemployment in New Zealand, engaging the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workforce is vital to remaining successful as an industry.

The purpose of this report is to understand and provide recommendations for the key attributes of a successful team within the seasonal RSE workforce, focusing on the kiwifruit industry. The methodology includes a literature review on the characteristics of a seasonal workforce and breaking down what a successful team looks like, followed by semi-structured interviews with ten orchard owners and pastoral care managers to gain insights from their experience with RSE teams. Themes were generated through thematic analysis to provide conclusions and recommendations.

Key findings

A family culture with a village mentality is key to the success of an RSE team and results in a team that is both happy and healthy at work. Team building and a homely living environment add to this. RSE employees’ purpose of making money to send home to their families, needs to be kept front of mind.

The RSE team needs to be well-formed with the right mix of skills, experience, and personalities with a clear and well-understood leadership structure. The team leader must be trusted and respected, creating productivity and success. Peer mentoring also adds to team success with team members supporting and encouraging one another.

The mindset of continuous improvement is essential to the success of the RSE team. Highly engaged RSE employees need development opportunities beyond their day-to-day tasks.

The relationship is symbiotic, with New Zealand employers needing to be willing to learn more about the values and culture of the Pacific Islands. All parties working together need to have a strong cultural understanding of similarities and differences, which improves team performance. Planning for continuity and succession is vital.


The following recommendations are made to orchardists looking to build a successful RSE team:

  • Develop a family culture, cultivating the village mentality. This is developed through having an inclusive living environment and creating a home away from home by their New Zealand employers.

  • Ensure all permanent employees have a good understanding of the similarities and differences of the Pacific Islander culture. This can be developed through developing a cultural training programme for all permanent staff.

  • Ensure RSE employees understand their purpose and motivation for being in New Zealand which is sending money home to their families. Checking in on this regularly to keep them reminded of their purpose is important to retain engagement.

  • Put in place an RSE team leader that is trusted and well-respected.
    • Create a culture of empowerment amongst the team to allow peer mentoring across team members.

  • Put in place regular team-building activities and be in regular communication with the RSE team.

  • The New Zealand employer needs to have a mindset of continuity and succession. The key to this is building a strong referral system.

  • Ensure RSE employees have access to development opportunities. The main provider of this is Vakameasina.

  • Be open to learning about the values and culture of the Pacific Islands.

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