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Beyond the Bale : March 2013
30 ON-FARM Many rural-based businesses are adjusting to greater competition for skilled labour and the continued migration of people to urban centres. In response, AWI and Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) commissioned a national study to better understand and find solutions to the problems of securing a skilled and stable labour force for the pastoral livestock industries. The findings of this survey show that these industries typically employ five or less staff on a single, family-managed property; and have an ageing workforce, with 45 per cent over 50 years of age. The study highlighted the high hidden costs of staff turnover. At the farm level, labour shortages cost an average of $22,500 to $112,500 depending on farm size. The average cost of turnover for a farm is around $33,500 per employee. The study also highlighted the important role that employers play in attracting and retaining staff in the pastoral livestock industries. WHAT ATTRACTS EMPLOYEES Pastoral wool employees reported family background (71%), lifestyle (43%), working with animals (52%), working outdoors (52%) and variety in jobs as industry attractors. Employees are unlikely to be attracted to the mining industry with its sharply contrasting work environment and lifestyle. Small enterprises (less than five employees) offer job variety and opportunities to work independently. Medium enterprises (6-14 employees) attract employees through the quality of the operation, company reputation and more career opportunities. Large enterprises (15 or more employees) FAST FACTS l Australian pastoral industries including the wool industry have a high proportion of smaller family managed properties with an ageing workforce. l Reputation and job variety attract employees to an employer; pay by itself does not attract or retain staff. l Longer working hours increase the rate of turnover. can offer more career opportunities, and promote the company's good reputation, pay and benefits. ENGAGED EMPLOYEES Over two-thirds of employees in the southern pastoral livestock industries are highly engaged. They said they were satisfied with their job, committed, loyal, proud to work for their property/ company, have good morale, feel trusted and valued, go the extra mile and believe they have a long-term future with their employer. These results compare favourably with the overall Australian average of less than a quarter of Australian employees who are engaged. Employees are more engaged in their work when employers strive to meet employees' top five expectations in order of importance: 1. Understanding what is expected of me at work 2. Feeling trusted and valued as a person 3. Having pride in working for the farm/ station/company 4. Being open and honest in dealings with each other 5. Good quality accommodation. Burnout is a critical issue. Highly engaged employees working more than 48 hours per week risk fatigue and burnout, and are at much greater risk of Attracting and retaining staff March 2013 BEYOND THE BALE poor health, safety and social outcomes. 54% of employees in the pastoral livestock industries work more than 50 hours a week. Longer working hours increase the rate of turnover. STAFF RETENTION Employees that left pastoral livestock employers said they left because: they saw better career opportunities elsewhere they didn't feel valued, or their achievements weren't recognised they lacked future certainty of poor leadership and communication wages were uncompetitive. Smaller enterprises increase the risk of burnout for an ageing workforce due to long hours and more working weeks. Long working hours in medium-sized enterprises were challenging for mature and younger workers. Unchallenging and boring jobs demotivated younger employees of larger enterprises. Financial security and certainty are key motivators for workforce retention. Pay, by itself, is not sufficient to provide financial security for employees working in an uncertain environment. Addressing an employee's sense of certainty about long- term employment will assist with their retention. Employees are more likely to leave an employer than the pastoral livestock industry. Employees often grew up in the industry and prefer the lifestyle that comes with working outdoors and with animals.