21st century workplaces – Labour shortages, silo thinking, competition for the same talent pool – identifying the elephant in the room

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“If you believe in your heart that you need to do something, and you know in your heart it’s right… and especially when you’re in a position to make the change, you can’t back away from it,” Alison Mirams 

As reported in the Stock and Land “Dairy Australia has launched a national marketing campaign to attract new workers to the industry, after a survey found 25 per cent of farmers were unable to find labour or access workers with the required skills.

The survey found 22pc cent of farmers were unable to fill vacant positions, within three months, and 40pc had lost one, or more staff, in the 12 months prior to the survey.

You can see part of the campaign here

I truly hope it is successful and I would be very interested to see how Dairy Australia plan to monitor and evaluate its success. What ROI are they predicting?

I am sceptical as my experience agrees with Dr Nicole McDonald and her team and their excellent research that helps address the elephant in the room  “Career development and agriculture: we don’t need a marketing campaign”

Yesterday I attended a construction industry event. The key note was Alison Mirams ( awesome speaker, highly recommend)  Agriculture got a mention as an industry like construction not as ready to embrace 21st century challenges as it could be 

The conversations were interesting. Despite the keynote being a woman and the industry recognising attracting and retaining women could help address its workforce shortage ( 12.7% of construction industries people are women – same as 35 years ago) the sponsor representative used predominantly male language – “the guys in hi vis” the “blokes in the offices”

The Australian construction industry is in crisis. There are some startling stats beyond escalating costs of production ( I discovered the construction industry talks about REO costs like agriculture talks about fertiliser costs)

Stats like 1550 insolvencies and high rates of suicide (190 ppl)  per annum are heartbreaking. Young construction workers are ten times more likely to die by suicide than die from a workplace accident on a construction site.

Alison is on a mission to change the Culture Standard and is the chief crusader for the industry to have a 5 day working week.- Project 5 –  A weekend for every worker  Her message is “People are our Greatest Resource”. When we look  after the health and wellbeing of our people they will be more productive and she is working with the University of NSW to measure this. It hasn’t been easy with 75 rain days between Jan and July seeing a 54% productivity drop.

Getting back to the dairy industry and agriculture in general, my personal experience and 20 years of working with young people in the sector and in schools has shown me people want rewarding jobs where they feel the work they do makes a difference and they are valued for their contribution. In a world where young people’s career choices are more and more driven by their values  I think Alison Mirams has got it right.  We need to start with the elephant in the room – if you are going to employ people then firstly you need to be prepared to gain the 21st century skills that will earn your business top marks for “GREAT PLACE TO WORK”

We need to understand what drives people to make the career decisions they make.

Before we start spending mega bucks on marketing campaigns lets all ensure our industries are them image we want the world to see

We need to show we care.

In reality lets be honest the first stage ( not the last stage) would be upskilling employers ( see Dairy Australia stage process below )

It doesn’t matter what industry we are currently in there is a scarcity of labour in an overemployed market and I was heartened yesterday by the number of times the panel mentioned the power of collaboration

“If you believe in your heart that you need to do something, and you know in your heart it’s right… and especially when you’re in a position to make the change, you can’t back away from it,” Alison Mirams

Extract of article from Stock and Land 

DA regional services general manager Verity Ingham said the issue had been compounded by COVID-19 and the nationwide skills shortage, across a range of sectors beyond agriculture.

The campaign would promote the benefits of working in dairy farming and encourage Australians to explore a job in dairy.

Featuring dairy ambassador Jonathan Brown and seven dairy farmers, the campaign showcases why working in dairy matters, highlighting factors that have been shown to motivate people to consider a job in dairy.

“Competition for jobseekers in regional areas is fierce, so finding good, reliable people is a priority for dairy farmers,” Ms Ingham said.

“Keeping them is just as important.

Ms Ingham said coronavirus had an impact on both international and cross-border workers.

“Because there is such a range of jobs on dairy farms, closing international and state borders really stopped that flow of employees across the nation,” she said.

“Dairies are traditionally a place for that backpacker market and it burst quite quickly.”

DA looked to local markets but found many potential workers didn’t know what was required on farms.

Ms Ingham said the advertising campaign was the first step in a four-pronged approach to attracting, and retaining, workers.

“We’re going out into regional areas looking for non-traditional workers in the dairy industry, so not necessarily poaching from the beef or sheep farm, next door,” she said.

This would be followed by career education about dairy for school, university and TAFE students.

“The third and fourth parts are around supporting our farmers, connecting them with job agencies and places where there are job seekers,” she said.

“We’ll also be skilling the job agencies, so they know about dairy, and then connecting our farmers into those networks.”

The last stage would be skilling farmers in how to employ new staff

“It’s a little bit like becoming a cafe owner – you don’t necessarily start the cafe with looking for staff, you do it because you love coffee and cake,” Ms Ingham said.

“Farmers are often getting into farming, or even succession, because they love the outdoors, putting food on the table for the nation and animals – not necessarily to employ people.”.

DA was also setting up a pre-employment program, she said.

“We are working with those job agencies and networks, in terms of making sure that anybody who hasn’t been on a farm, or who has very little experience on farms, gets those really core skills,” she said.

“Once they land on dairy farms, they have got some of those basic skills, in terms of a skill set they need.”

The consumer-producer divide is real. Lets embrace it

Last night I was in my happy place – and that is inviting the community (non-farmer audience) to codesign what the future for our region could look like if we worked together and created a road map to get there

My journey has taught me its pivotal to start where people are at and do some applied research

To help me understand where my audience was at  I introduced the Sustainability Circle concept

I said the role of farmers is to

  • produce safe, affordable, nutritious food whilst
  • treading as lightly on the planet as possible,
  • ensuring worker safety and animal well being and
  • being an active community  member.

I then said in an ideal world farmers will make enough income they wont need to prioritize one sustainability circle responsibility  over another

But in an era where food is just 10% of our income and we have come to believe food at rock bottom prices is a birth right farmers often find they have to prioritize

I invited the audience to put their farmer hat on and make their choices  using a Mentimeter poll

The two graphs below compare the audiences choices to mine (the farmer) .

Are my choices on the left or the right?????

VERY IMPORTANT NOTE

I did this research at the end of my presentation and prior to doing this I showed these three slides

If we keep consuming the earth’s natural resources and generating the same amount of waste we will need 1.8 planets

and then I highlighted this

Is it surprising when asked to make spur of the moment decisions the audience made the choices they did?

We are all a product of our life experiences, the choices we make so often depend on where we are standing and what we choose to see

I see this when I look out my window

What do you see?

Creating a bright future is a shared responsibility.

Has there ever been a more important time for farmers and the community to reconnect and have conversations and build relationships ?


A refection from me

To be a successful farmer you have to be able to deal with ambiguity as you are often going from one daily crisis to the next.

On our farm we had the mantra – always prioritise the things  with a heartbeat first

Fostering a mindset that food at rock bottom prices is a birth rite is not amusing

Action4Agriculture,  through programs like ACTION4YOUTH, is committed to working with our partners in industry, education, and community to make sure the agriculture sector is the opportunity of choice, where every individual is valued for their role in nourishing our nation.”

Images and perceptions matter – This joke is not funny –

Its time

#CreatingABetterWorldTogether

 

 

 

Have we taken our badge of honour too seriously – I am a farmer I wear many hats

I have been watching with great interest the agriculture sector call to arms to tighten our biosecurity protocols to keep Foot and Mouth Disease and Lumpy Skin Disease out of Australia

There are messaging experts all over of the world. I am yet to see my generation of agriculture embrace this area of expertise.

As an example the acronyms FMD and LSD mean very different things for non farmers

I was impressed that it was young people in agriculture who were early embracers of the possible confusion of the acronyms and cleverly drew it to the attention of others and the movement towards positive action messaging was quickly adopted.

As part of our school programs we engaged messaging expert Les Robinson to share with teachers and students best practice

We use campaigns like MLA’s Myth Busting Campaigns as examples of how NOT to do it

We invite schools to show us how we could do it better

Google Good Meat – wow two very different sites.

Good Meat

Good Meat

If the big idea is to stop the scroll and look up the website – mmmh   – I leave the thinking behind this strategy to some-one else

I do my bit to explain it here using what I have learnt from the messaging experts

Young people are so exciting – they are ACTIVE and they are AWARE. They have the capacity to create movements of change.

Lets give them agency and voice. Let them become the new experts

#CreatingABetterWorldTogether

and leave it to Cathy Wilcox to remind me humans are not an homogenous group

We dont have a skills shortage problem we have a workplace culture problem

Yesterday I attended a forum for business leaders who had been invited to have input into the RAI Rebalancing the Nation – Regionalisation Consultation Paper 

There was a comment made by an expert in the skills training space that resonated with me

“we don’t have a skills shortage problem per se we have a shortage of workplaces with the culture that people want to work in”

Last night I hosted a workshop for 15 of our Young Farming Champions facilitated by leadership culture expert Cynthia Mahoney 

The conversations around the table indicated we have a lot of work to do in agriculture on our CULTURE. What is exciting is these young people are investing their time as life long learners to help us get it right

#CreatingABetterWorldTogether

Creating a better world together

This week our Young Farming Champions are continuing their deep dive with Cynthia Mahoney into How to Ask for More, they are learning to handle the people who are stuck in the drama triangle and in particular the people who want to be rescued. I personally find them more insidious than the bullies

I am very passionate about giving our Young Farming Champions the skills to take others on the journey with them as painlessly as possible.

I definitely don’t want too many people to feel the need to go on my journey to drive change.

Persistence is part of my DNA, thinking “no” means “almost YES” a glass half full strategy.

When you get a reputation as a person who never gives up ( if only they knew how wrong they are – I tried that once – wasn’t very good at that) others who mean well often take advantage.

I have had some very rewarding wins

I have been on some scary journeys. When some NSW vets asked me would I step up on this and have it phased out  I hadn’t even heard of the practice ( nor had most farmers in states beyond Victoria and Tasmania – Again this is an example of the push to have food at rock bottom prices is not good for animals or people or the planet.) It took 9 years but it happened, and it certainly told me agr-politics was not for me.

In 2022 I am on a mission to enable everyone who works in agriculture to feel they can be loud and proud. That the best people apply and stay to work in the industry that helps nourish the nation.

I have been around long enough to know there are still several things we have to address before we can put our hands on our heart and say we are doing enough as a sector to achieve that.

This takes are lot of lobbying and sometimes in my case calling things out.

Its hard work, at times I struggle and I journal my pain.

We can all work together and build a better world or we can focus on bettering our world

I am grateful to everyone who is on this journey to build a better world with me.

People have very long memories

My experience with Dairy Australia happened a long time ago. 

Why am I talking about it now.

Its because I am not a one off. I am one of a possible class action  of many, many undervalued people who have passed through their doors.

This was hammered home to me recently. I was part of a team who put together a successful National Careers Institute Grant Round 3.

A model that had the potential to turn agriculture on it head and genuinely empower the sector to drive real profitability for its farmers.

When we launched the campaign to sign up the changemakers, I found roadblocks within my circle of dairy influencers

“You are kidding me Lynne – there is no way in the world I am going to promote something that will make Dairy Australia look good when they have nothing to do with its success”

It was then I knew we needed a serious culture change. The culture at Dairy Australia isn’t a one off.    Not enough of  our research and development corporations are not fit for purpose

How do fix this?

 

How do you fix a problem not enough people seem to realise we have?

My post yesterday came from a place of deep hurt. In fact my entire world is driven by my emotions.

When I came back to agriculture 20 years ago I knew there was a very good reason why I left in the first place. I didn’t want to milk cows but I did want to use my talents ( whatever they were ) to get the best outcomes for the industry my family loved so much.

It turned out I did have a talent I didn’t know I had and that was designing and delivering action learning programs for young people 

To hone my talent I sought our John Hutchison and Deanne Kennedy at JayDee events who have been delivering Cows Create Careers for the dairy industry.

John and Deanne are magnificent humans and together with Cathy Phelps ( who at the time headed up the Natural Resources Management department at Dairy Australia) we created a farmer focused first iteration of Picasso Cows where young people in primary schools explored healthy landscapes, clean waterways and energy efficient dairies. I got it funded and piloted it for two years and then Dairy Australia wanted it.

The first Picasso Cows were traffic stoppers

I was aware the budget would be in Marketing and Communications (M&C) . The people who run schools’ engagement at Dairy Australia are nutritional experts. The Dairy Australia version of Picasso Cows would not be farmer focused and instead have a health and nutrition focus

All well and good, that is their area of expertise,  but not my passion so I walked away. Handed over all the IP everything for no remuneration and knew that it was in good hands been looked after by John and Deanne.

Is Picasso Cows still being looked after by John and Deanne? No it isn’t. When will people in Marketing and Communications realise grass roots programs are successful because they are grass roots programs and the best people to deliver them are the grass roots ?

A couple of years ago Dairy Australia made the decision to no longer fund Cows Create Careers . It was so rewarding to see the farmers go into battle to have Dairy Australia reverse their decision. As I said John and Deanne are magnificent humans, they have a rapport with the demographic of farmers I don’t- the over 45’s

I also created a highly successful series called “Jhet and Emma – A Day in the Life of Two Young Girls working on a Dairy Farm ” series for the NSW DPI LandLearn program. The DPI insisted it be housed on their website. When they shut down LandLearn did they let me know the Jhet and Emma series would disappear into the ether? No they did not. Hours and hours and hours of pro bono time and a highly successful education series gone forever .

And this was just the beginning of the extractive world of agriculture I found myself in. After 20 years I feel like an abused housewife who knows deep down no matter how much people say they are going to change, the problem is too endemic, yet she keeps going back for more.

So I ask myself, why is the culture in agriculture like this and there is a good reason

Everyday WE ( Australians) wake up expecting food at rock bottom prices to be a birth rite. We are asking farmers to do what they do and we aren’t prepared to value it. The system proliferates this mindset. The supermarkets wake up everyday on a race to the bottom competing on price alone.

Food is 10% of income in this country. 70 years ago it was 50%. Our farmers getting up everyday to produce food at rock bottom prices gives us a disposable income to spend on other things.

Our farmers feel undervalued. The sector feels undervalued. Undervalued people tend to focus on problems and don’t have the energy to seek out solutions. They tend not to value people who do.

Change starts with us

How do we start the regenerative process?

 

 

Best practice workforce development – what does success look like?

I am very excited that the charity I founded has received National Careers Institute funding to prototype and pilot a model for best practice workforce development.

I am putting a lot of pressure on me and the people I am surrounding myself with to ensure we deliver a successful model that is replicable and scalable by any industry.

Working in agriculture for the last 20 years I have seen so much money wasted.

I have also seen people and organisations delivering pockets of brilliance . How impressive is this People in Agriculture  which is a partnership between a number of agricultural sectors leveraging the brilliance of the people at Dairy Australia who created People in Dairy

In the first instance – surely we could all work miracles if we bought the pockets of brilliance together so we could learn from each other because this is what people committed to best outcomes for the people they serve do.

Whilst I have seen some brilliance at Dairy Australia  I have seen a lot of things that don’t make any sense to me at all. My area of expertise is designing and delivering programs that empower young people to take action on issues that matter to them.

I created Picasso Cows for Dairy Australia. That  meant I have worked with their Marketing and Communications teams because that’s were the budget for school engagement sits.

Can agriculture fix its images and perceptions issues through marketing and communication?

I am 100% confident that it cant.

The only way we ( farmers and the businesses that support us) can attract and keep employees is by being the places that people are proud to work for.

This requires the capacity and capability to self reflect on our businesses. Simple things like how does my business present to the public. One example rubbish and piles of old machinery lying around are not a good look.

I spent 25 years working in the world of retail. We got taught this stuff. Who is helping people in agriculture self reflect.

When we get ourselves right THEN and only then can we let the people in marketing and communications do their thing  with confidence

Organisations like Dairy Australia can lead by example and show us how its done.

Lets start by taking the pressure off the Marketing and Communications team – they cant fix things that are out of their control

Who do you channel when you need to flex your courage muscle?

Everyday I get to work with extraordinary young people doing extraordinary things

The person who gives me the courage to keep turning up everyday is an octogenarian

His name is E. Professor David Lindsay AO FTSE and my claim to fame is I am his niece and the flower girl at his wedding. Yes that’s me on the left.

He has more courage than any scientist I have ever met in the world of agriculture. He challenges the research and development corporation that will potentially fund his team’s science at the highest level.

If only other industries had scientists with this courage, just imagine how exciting the agriculture space could be