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How do agri-processors engage entry level labour?

Author: Kieran McHugh

Organisation: Kellogg Rural Leadership Programme

Published: July 2021

Country: New Zealand

Research type: Qualitative

The issue of worker engagement is not a new one and as New Zealand strives to create more value from agriculture without increasing land footprint or environmental harm, value will be created from advancements in taking our world-class raw ingredients through the supply chain. Therefore, the engagement of people throughout the supply chain is more important than ever. Worker engagement in this context is defined as the ability for an employer to connect with an employee so that a relationship is not purely a transactional time versus financial reward.

The current state of New Zealand’s employment records shows an increasing unemployed population increasing from 88,833 on the Jobseeker Support to 122,871 in the 12 months to April 2021 (Development, 2021).

There were three common themes between the literature reviewed and the people interviewed. The strong correlation demonstrates the need for Accountability, Clarity and Care across all levels of the business and how this is imperative for gaining better labour engagement. Interestingly this fits into a model presented by Simon Sinek “circle of safety” which concludes that the more clarity, accountability and care that can be given to a team they will then focus their resources solving production issues.

New Zealand’s unemployment rates continue to increase and so does the minimum wage, yet New Zealand businesses continue to struggle to get new entrants into their teams.

To change this outcome businesses need to focus on:

  1. Upskilling the leaders of their business (team Leader level) that share the most time with the entry-level employees
  2. Create clear values and business objectives for all levels of business can hold themselves to.
  3. Implement the clearly articulated objectives and values with clarity, care and accountability.