More on Farm EmploymentWednesday, May 16, 2001
Further to yesterdays editorial on managing farm staff in the modern context of seeing staff as team
members rather than just ‘labour’
Ian Boag an occasional guest writer has pointed out that having highly motivated staff on its own does
not ensure management success because the vital element of control is often overlooked..
In Ians words:
“To get something done properly one needs a state of control. This requires three things
1) To know what you are supposed to be doing
2) To know what you are doing
3) To have a way to effect change so that 2) can be lined up with 1)
All the motivation in the world is no use if one of these things is missing.
Because motivation alone is not all that great as a way of getting things done right. Go to a golf club
on a wintry Saturday morning and watch all the people hacking and slicing their way round the
course in the cold weather. The fact that they are doing this instead of staying in bed says it all
about their motivation but the results are still poor.”
These comments may further confirm that fashionable concepts promoted as practical answers are the basis
of much of the disharmony and poor image that farming employment has gained in the employment
market. Livestock farming as it is currently structured may not be suitable to be managed under many
of the newer ‘employment concepts’ accepted as normal in competing urban industries.
But an even more disturbing thought is an article on farm employment by J K Galbraith discussing the
monotonous toil that is part of rural life. (See Farmers View – J K Galbraith’s World
Tour) His summary although not directly related to NZ pastoral farming certainly raises some recognisable
Could it be that to improve the image of farm employment – particularly intensive livestock farming
a much more fundamental restructuring of employment environment is required?
Sweet talk and promises of better but unlikely farm employment improvements in the future may be pandering
to the values of a predominantly urban society. But we fail because we seem in many cases to
be unable to deliver.
It is certainly clear that wives and partners of employees are now much less tolerant of the heavy demands
of farm work in the spring on most dairy farms.
As farmers we are subjected to a lot of advice on how to change for the better. Perhaps we need to ensure,
that if we are paying, it is a scientist or engineer rather than a therapist that designs our