Investing in people

September 10, 2017

Reece Curwen focused on investigating best practice in people management across the agricultural sector.

Human capital is the key to ensuring Australia’s agriculture industries can expand, a Western Australian Nuffield scholar has said.

Having conducted a two-year research journey that included more than four months travelling through 11 countries, Reece Curwen focused on investigating best practice in people management across the agricultural sector.

‘‘People are our most important resource,’’ Mr Curwen said.

‘‘But the reality of hiring and retaining staff in rural areas, particularly in primary industries at peak times of the year such as harvest, can be incredibly challenging.’’

The Stirling-based producer, who manages his family’s 7500ha cropping program that includes canola, barley and wheat, in addition to 14000 head of Merino ewes, focused on how managers led their teams and used them to boost farm productivity.

Of the businesses Mr Curwen visited overseas, he said those who were able to thrive had mastered staff retention and were considered an employer of choice within the industry and the community.

‘‘They empowered their employees and gave them the tools to succeed, which led to increased professional and personal growth,’’ he said.

‘‘This is particularly relevant for the younger generations who are primarily motivated by a successful and positive culture, rather than salary or status.’’

As well as practising good governance, core values, communication and accountability measures, Mr Curwen said placing emphasis on training allowed businesses to demonstrate they valued their employees and motivated them to improve and increase their responsibilities within the business.

‘‘Getting staff more involved in the business, both at a technical and strategic level, pays off.

‘‘On the most successful farms I visited, the leadership style had shifted away from telling people what to do to empowering people and allocating responsibility.

‘‘With Australian agriculture entering a new wave of growth and prosperity, there’s never been a better time to sell the positive story of a career in farming and where it can take you.

‘‘When a business or industry becomes attractive, it attracts people.’’

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