Team Building in a Seasonal Workforce.

Dustin Rothstein Kellogg report image

Executive summary

“The stubborn fact is that all great human achievement is the result of team efforts…The degree to which this fact is overlooked is alarming and is a consequence of the individualistic bias of our culture”

Seasonal horticulture work requires a group of individuals from diverse cultures, work experiences, and employment motivations to form a team in a short period of time. Often in the span of a few days, these workers are recruited, divided into teams, trained, and put to work. Their success in quickly forming a high performing
team is directly linked to the success of the harvest season.

There is no shortage of research on how to build a high performing team, but seasonal horticulture work presents a few unique challenges that makes it difficult to blindly apply these methods:

    1. Time Constraints – The entire season lasts only a few months
    2. New Employees – Most seasonal workers are new to the company and to the industry
    3. Demographics – Seasonal horticulture workers come from incredibly diverse backgrounds.

This report aims to provide recommendations on how leadership and team building models can best be adapted o suit these unique challenges.

To achieve this, a deep understanding of the demographics and cultural norms of New Zealand’s seasonal horticulture workforce was a primary research focus. This cultural understanding was then overlaid with current best practice team building, leadership, and engagement models.


  1. Understand Your Seasonal Workforce – The first step to building a high performing team from a collection of seasonal workers needs to be understanding who those workers are. Any process for building a high performing team with members of various cultures should acknowledge and
    respect the cultural differences amongst the team.

  2. Tailor Your Leadership Approach – Tailor your leadership style to the needs of your team. Communication is key. With a seasonal, culturally diverse work team, the leader needs to take this a step further, helping the individuals find common ground and bond as a team before they align to a common purpose. Facilitate effective communication within the team to build these personal bonds. Follow this up with clear, consistent communication to the team.

  3. Develop a Structured Team Building Plan – Understand the Forming-Storming-Norming-Performing-Adjourning model of team development. A guide to applying this for seasonal work is found in the Appendix. This should be a starting point and adapted to the unique norms of your own work team. 

Download and read the full report here:

Grow. Advance. Lead.

Do the Kellogg Rural Leadership Programme.