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Alignment with SDGs
Jenny Jago and Andrew Hoggard DairyNZ and New Zealand Federated Farmers • New Zealand
Employment practices on dairy farms are critical to a successful industry. The Sustainable Dairying: Workplace Action Plan emerged from the desire of the NZ dairy sector to front foot the issue and show the public that our sector wants to be recognised as a quality employer. To do this we developed and provided guidance, resources and tools, along with leadership to enable farmers to work towards improvements in their businesses that will attract and retain people. The Action Plan supports the dairy sector’s strategy Dairy Tomorrow which describes a broad-based approach to sustainability and describes how we are committed to building great workplaces for New Zealand’s most talented workforce.
The action plan was developed by farmers (Federated Farmers) and industry body DairyNZ to assist the 12,000 diverse businesses in the dairy sector to adopt good workplace management practices. It sets out a firm destination and direction for the sector. We are clear that people, are fundamental to driving sustainable, high quality milk production which minimises environmental and social costs.
The quality of the work environment is central to attracting and retaining good people. The benefit people will bring to dairy businesses and to the wider community is the reason why DairyNZ and Federated Farmers want to proactively improve farm workplaces.
Moving the wheel
We worked with farmers, government organisations and those who supported the intentions of the Workplace Action Plan to develop guidelines under five pillars of good people management: balanced and Productive worktime, fair remuneration, wellness, wellbeing, health and safety, effective team culture and rewarding careers. These guidelines described the features of a quality work environment. We worked with partner organisations to promote adoption of the guidelines setting up initiatives such as ‘friends of the workplace action plan’ to which 1,250 farmers signed up and receive on-going on-line support.
We developed tools (e.g. roster builder, contract templates), resources and workshops (e.g. Safety Sorted) to support farmers achieve their goals of providing a quality workplace. Well-known farming leaders came on-board and shared their stories of implementing the guidelines on their own farms. We developed a scorecard to measure progress towards the goals.
History of success
New Zealand dairy farming is built on a history of innovation, of highly efficient farming systems with a focus on profitability. Embedded in this history is a culture of hard work and long hours to achieve personal goals. As the sector has grown, so too has the diversity of business structures and people who make up the dairy workforce. The workplace action plan has helped to change the culture of farming. Dairy farmers are aware of the need to provide the work conditions to enable people to thrive within their businesses and are taking steps to deliver this. The use of rosters has increased with ‘5 on 2 off’ off now common place. Awareness and actions that support wellbeing are now also regular features in workplaces.
Farming systems that support the use of technology and flexible milking strategies that lead to reduced work hours are being adopted.
People who work on dairy farms: the main beneficiaries
Farm businesses have benefited through a stronger focus on people and the productivity they bring, and the dairy sector as a whole has benefitted through a emergence of a cultural change that recognises the importance of people along with animals and the environment to support competitive and resilient farm businesses.
Opportunities to grow
Despite the progress made following the launch of the workplace action plan there is still much work to be done. As the demands on dairy farming to demonstrate sustainable practices increase the importance that people play in achieving this also increases.
This year we are refreshing the Workplace Action Plan to ensure the goals are in line with international standards and expectations of customers our farmers supply. We are working closely with dairy processors to achieve this. We have widened the group of organisations that are supporting implementation to include Dairy Women’s Network and New Zealand Young Farmers.