Words by: Anne Lee

Micro-learning, less hierarchical team structures, video training apps, leadership training and visual ways of communicating are just some of the ideas to come out of DairyNZ’s new workplace design project that’s already seeing farmers trial innovative ways of working.

DairyNZ’s Callum Eastwood is leading the project and says the aim is to find ways of operating that will help meet the expectations of the workforce over the coming 10 years and make dairying a more attractive option for people.

Nine South Island farmers have been involved in the project that’s been underway since early last year.

They’ve contributed to DairyNZ lead research and design thinking workshops into how farming workplaces could improve and travelled to Auckland to look first hand at other business sectors to see what could be relevant back on farm.

The Kanban method of organising and managing tasks is one idea that’s been successfully piloted. Callum says farmers identified the need for leadership training in staff development as well as the use of technology in all aspects of training.

“A lot of leadership training is focused at the owner or manager but farmers saw benefits in targeting people at the 2IC level or staff at an earlier stage in their careers.”

He says the project ran a pilot leadership and EQ (emotional intelligence) training course, “leading change” but combined the use of new technologies and approaches to learning.

“Eight early career farmers were part of the pilot but the group never actually met in person, partly because of Covid-19, but also because we wanted to use tools such as zoom and WhatsApp to communicate and on-line micro learning where farmers used an app to carry out five-minute lessons through the week.

“The online lessons were followed up by a zoom meeting to cement the learning and let them discuss amongst themselves.”

Farmers had also identified the need for training technology for use during day-today farming activities.

Callum says DairyNZ found an app called Knowby, which is already available and provides a platform for farmers to simply create their own “how to” type videos, pictures and written instructions.

Because they’re personalised, they’re specific to the farm’s situation and can be used by staff to reinforce or refresh instruction they’ve already had or help show them something new.

“They can be like mini, individual SOPs (standard operating procedures).

“They’re ideal for jobs where people might not be proficient yet or those jobs you only do once in a while.”

Staff can also make them themselves and they can be easily searched, shared and printed.

People are more frequently using “point-in-time” learning rather than learning a whole lot of information ahead of time.

Googling a how to or using YouTube to teach yourself when and where you actually need the information can make it more relevant and backs up those who prefer to learn by doing and watching.

Callum says the overall new workplace design project is continuing.