Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Right job, right person

The key to harmonious staff relations is getting recruitment right and employing flexible team players, according to large farm contract milkers Michael and Susie Woodward, pictured. With 2065 cows to milk and a peak staff of 14 they follow a philosophy of “finding the right person rather than the first person”. “Because we’re a big team, I think it’s really important that we do lay out what we have to offer, what the team culture is like and how they will fit in with that,” Susie said. The Te Pirita, Canterbury property is 578ha in size and 44ha kale is also grown. Their Friesian and Friesian-cross cows are milked through an 80-bail rotary with an in-dairy feeding system, automatic cup removers (ACRs) and Protrack.

There are 10 full-time employees as well as four part-timers, three calf rearers and a farm assistant. They hail from the Philippines, Australia, Britain and China, and with Susie originally coming from New York, Michael’s the only Kiwi on the farm.

The couple believe in doing their homework to find the right, committed people.

“We work through and do a phone interview to initially see what they’re looking for, to see if they’re going to match with us. Then we progress to at least two reference checks,” Susie said.

“If they make our top grade, then we bring them in for an interview.”

Here they have learnt to watch for warning signs.

“We’ll ask them the question, ‘How soon can you start?’ to see what their response is. If they immediately say, ‘Just give me four weeks for notice and I’ll come’, it’s not really on, and we’re thinking, ‘You could do that to me’.”

They’re also careful with job titles, making sure they clarify exactly what experience applicants have.  

“We need to make sure the people we’re recruiting understand our role and our expectations.”

On the first phone call Susie tells applicants they have a drug and alcohol policy on the farm.  

“They might say it’s not an issue, but then I never hear back from them.”

New staff have to sign an authorisation they accept breath alcohol testing and drug tests. They’re also given an orientation, shown the farm map, driven round the property, shown accommodation and introduced to other staff over the first few months.  

Once a month Michael sits down with each staff member to check everything’s going well and to set some short term goals.

“It gives them buy-in.”

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