Anne Lee

Having a good boss can be a lifechanging experience for some people and being a good boss can mean reaping rewards well beyond the paddock gate, DairyNZ people team leader Jane Muir says.

Helping farmers lift their game when it comes to being an employer is the aim of the comprehensive “Good Boss” campaign recently launched by DairyNZ, Federated Farmers, New Zealand Young Farmers and the Dairy Women’s Network.

Even though Covid-19 will likely see huge changes to the face of the farming workforce with uncertainty over when or if new immigrant staff can come into the country and a predicted climb in the numbers of Kiwis unemployed, having a sector of good bosses remains vital to the long-term health and resilience of the industry.

Having good bosses who create happy, thriving workplaces means more highly capable people will consider dairying when they look for new employment and the more people applying for jobs, the more contestable the recruitment programme.

Greater choice will mean having people employed onfarm who will solve more problems, people who find more opportunities for the farm business, and people who help make the business more successful overall, Jane says.

But just as having a good employment experience can help draw more people into the sector through word of mouth and social media sharing the opposite will still be true.

“When someone has a bad experience, they’ll still talk to their friends about it and those stories will spread quickly.

“The experience people have on our farms is in our control, it’s in our circle of influence,” Jane says.

“People turn up to a job expecting to get a good boss – if they don’t, they don’t stay. For some people a good boss is lifechanging – you can’t underestimate that.”

The Good Boss campaign has four major objectives and tools and resources will be rolled out to support each of those objectives, she says.


  1. Farmers know what makes a good boss.
  2. Farmers can assess their performance against good farming employment practice – including health, safety, wellbeing and tenancy.
  3. Farmers can access tools, resources and farmer leaders to make positive change to become better bosses.
  4. Employees are supported to understand their rights and also their responsibilities on farm.

As part of showing farmers what a good boss is in reality DairyNZ has asked farmers around the country how they define it and provide real life examples of experiences and those definitions in action.

Videos sent in as part of a competition and employee and employer experiences will be used in the campaign over coming months.

“It’s very easy for the words to roll off the tongue when someone’s asked to define a good boss but it’s better to be able to show what a good boss would do in a particular situation, why they would do it and how they would do it and that’s what we want to share – taking those examples from farms and sharing with other farmers.

“That way farmers will lead other farmers – farm employees can tell farm employers what they want and need in a good boss and farm employers can think back to a good boss they may have had – what made them special.

“With those pictures in mind and examples it will hopefully be easier for farmers to put those practices in place on their farms.”

To help meet objective two, farmers can use an online assessment tool to see how they measure up as a boss.

Called Workplace-360 it can be found on DairyNZ’s website.

“It’s something I’d recommend doing annually as a way to recalibrate yourself and double check you’ve got all the bases covered.”

It can be categorised as being three sections.

“The first is about minimum standards and checking you are meeting compliance requirements.

“The second is to see if you’re a good boss and the third is taking it a step further to ask about things that would make you a great boss.”

To help with objective three of having tools and resources to make positive change, a Good Boss Toolkit is soon to be launched.

It too has three main sections – recruitment, managing people and growing people.

Health, safety and wellbeing will be woven throughout the toolkit as they encompass every stage.

Jane says much of the work has already been done on building the toolkit and it’s about to be piloted by farmers around the country to get feedback before it’s offered to all farmers.

DairyNZ has also been working with Federated Farmers on a levy funded support service to support employees so they know what their rights are as well as their responsibilities onfarm.

Employees sometimes didn’t know what their rights were and didn’t know where to go to find out what must be met legally in terms of wages, hours and conditions.

If they’re supported and can access accurate, timely advice more issues can be resolved and the wider reputation of the industry can be better protected.

The service is expected to be rolled out over coming months.

Federated Farmers dairy chairman Chris Lewis says having productive, rewarding safe and enjoyable work places helps attract and retain motivated and capable people in the industry.

“The ultimate measure of success for our Good Boss campaign is that employees recommend working on their current farm to a friend – because they have a good, maybe even great, boss,” he says.