Thursday, 16 August 2018 13:55

Upskilling helps tackle HR issues

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From left: Emily, Carter, Jack and Daniel Woolsey. From left: Emily, Carter, Jack and Daniel Woolsey.

The 2007 national Farm Manager of the Year award winner Emily Woolsey (32) and her husband Daniel, of Southland, had a good grasp of dairy farming, says Primary ITO.

But wanting to upskill she enrolled in a Primary ITO diploma course in agribusiness management.

She was working as an occupational therapist in Invercargill and raising two sons; she had never worked on their farm fulltime. Then they moved back to a family-owned property in Gorge Rd to become equity managers. Their role was to oversee two dairy units (1300 cows) and work in a second equity partnership with a 400-cow property. Hence her management course.

“I wanted to know more about operating an agribusiness,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot from other people over the years but I’ve also had to teach myself along the way. So I was aware of gaps in my knowledge and I thought the diploma could help fill those gaps.”

The course human resources module has helped streamline the couple’s own human resources dealings with their six fulltime and two part-time staff.

“I put together a folder for successful recruitment and managing an effective onfarm team. I’ve been able to tweak certain areas of our HR practice and tailor resources to suit our business, notably the interview process.

“What questions should we be asking in an interview. The success of your business all starts from the recruitment process and finding the right person to hire. The diploma’s HR module looks at all the critical areas to consider when employing someone.”

Soon she will start performance reviews to keep staff motivated and help them develop and improve. “Farming often seems to lack a formal process where people can look at their strengths and weaknesses. Having a proper review helps people with their industry progression.”

And the course finance module is also useful, she says. “I can now sit down and look at budget figures and understand what they actually mean and what impact they will have on our cashflows. 

“And I’m more confident in talking about these with our bank manager and accountant because now I understand all the terminology.”

The diploma course is specific to agriculture rather than a general business course. 

“I can directly relate it to our farming business. I’m an examples person so I love the fact all the examples relate to our agribusiness.”

She attends classroom lessons once a fortnight and enjoys contact with fellow students to discuss what systems and ideas they use on their farms and what challenges they face.

“Our tutor has been very good. If you get stuck you can easily contact him for help and motivation. He’s also good at challenging our ideas and thoughts about why we do what we’re doing and looking at the big picture.”

The dairy industry appeals to Emily for its progression pathways. 

“There are ways to improve yourself, grow your business and enjoy your lifestyle. We’ve got two young boys who love being out on the farm with us. There are not many jobs where you can take your kids to work with you.”

She finds many positive people in dairy farming, willing to share their knowledge and experience to help others. She’s been heavily involved in the Dairy Women’s Network in recent years and finds plenty of opportunities to extend her skills.

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