Events offer farm labour management insights

Marie Fowler
Condingup grower Marie Fowler says successful staff management is key to growth in a business.

Strategies to help grain growers successfully manage staff and farm labour requirements will be among the topics discussed at a series of farm business events in Western Australia in February.

Condingup grower Marie Fowler and Stuart Wesley, of Oasis People and Culture, will address the subject when they speak at Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) Farm Business Updates in Wickepin on February 11, Bencubbin on February 12 and Northampton on February 13.

The events are aimed at assisting grain growers with their farm management skills by providing growers, advisers and agribusiness representatives with access to the latest and best farm business management concepts and practices.

Ms Fowler farms with her husband Andrew and family on a mixed cropping and livestock property 90 kilometres east of Esperance.

She is responsible for all financial and staff-related aspects of the farm, which comprises 30,000 hectares of owned and leased land, and employs 13 full time staff with up to 30 casual staff at busy times.

Ms Fowler says successful staff management is key to growth in a business and to achieve this, it is important to develop a culture based on clearly articulated values and behavioural expectations.

She advises that word of mouth is the cheapest form of advertising for staff but warns it also has the potential to work against you.

“In small communities, the people you employ are the public face of your business, so your reputation is at stake if they don’t ‘fit’,” Ms Fowler said.

“Having contracts, job descriptions and codes of conduct mean there are fewer ‘grey’ areas.

“Retention of permanent staff will help to drive your businesses forward and returning casual employees are very valuable.”

Mr Wesley combines a background in pastoral ministry with organisational learning and development, and specialises in bringing insights into the relationship issues which undermine high performance, and practical tools to move forward.

Stuart Wesley
Stuart Wesley, of Oasis People and Culture, combines a background in pastoral ministry with organisational learning and development.

He will cover key elements of human interaction in a family farming business, ways to understand and rebuild trust, and how to have succession conversations, that can sometimes be difficult.

Mr Wesley says human interaction is a core business process and when relationships are compromised, the culture of a business, and potentially the family, will be negatively affected.

“In some cases, the viability of the business and family relationships are also put in jeopardy,” he said.

“The skills of human interaction are often taken for granted but need to be learned and honed over a lifetime.

“When positive interaction skills are in place, a family business has the capacity to navigate challenging circumstances in life-giving ways – in other words, the family will flourish.”

Other topics and speakers at the 2020 WA GRDC Farm Business Update events include:

  • Economic drivers and mega trends. Record low interest rates, trade wars and banks under scrutiny. What does it all mean? (Saul Eslake, economist)
  • Signs of the time. Making sound farming decisions in a volatile climate (Peter Kuhlmann, grain grower, Mudamuckla, SA)
  • Protecting your freedom to operate. Navigating a path with evidence and emotion (Katherine Delbridge, CropLife Australia)
  • Workforce planning: Taking a strategic approach to farm labour (Sally Murfet, Inspire AG)
  • Volatile global politics, trade sanctions, what are the likely impacts on grain markets and which grains are most at risk? (Nick Carracher, Lachstock Consulting).

This year, the cost of attending has been reduced to $30 per person, including morning tea and lunch, to encourage even greater participation from industry and growers.

A new initiative is a follow-up webinar on February 21 to which all western region Farm Business Update attendees will be invited. Ms Fowler and Mr Wesley will be available to answer questions during this webinar.

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