“Three years ago, I was exhausted and run ragged by staffing issues. Working with REAL Success, I’ve taken on more staff, invested in their development and improved working hours and facilities. My family have never been happier, and my cows are producing more milk than ever.”
Hunshaw Farm is a large dairy farm based in Little Torrington North Devon. Run by Jack Elliott and his family, he is the second generation to run the farm after his father set up a small dairy enterprise. With just under 450 Holstein cows, the farm is an intensive, high input and high output system, milking three times a day and calving all year round.
Jack was struggling to find the right people for his team and had experienced a high staff turnover. At the same time, he was working long hours, often seven days a week, to cover staff shortages and poor performance. He needed skilled staff but was finding them hard to recruit. He was prepared to train people into their roles but had little or no training plan in place and wasn’t sure where to start.
Jack was frustrated too. With a very young family, he wasn’t seeing them as often as he would have liked, and the pressure was mounting both on the farm and at home.
We met Jack and his team in February 2018. It was clear that the team didn’t understand each other and often clashed in frustration as they had different ways of working. There were significant skill gaps that Jack would fill on a daily basis and the structure of the team wasn’t clear. Jack didn’t have a reliable No.2 that he could turn to, and he needed to re-think his approach as to how many people were needed in the team. He needed to review working hours, pay and contracts, along with the current skill set in the team. Jack needed to get his life back.
- We started by establishing the Team Dynamics by understanding the personality styles of the existing team using the VITA profiling system. Jack then understood his own leadership style and recognised that he had to adapt his approach to get the best from the different people in the team. The team also recognised their differences and learned how to flex their approach toward each other’s different personalities and working practices.
- Once the Team Dynamics has been established, we helped Jack analyse the current skill set in the team and a training plan and matrix was developed to upskill his team, rewarding progress with pay increases as his team improved their skills and knowledge.
- We developed a series of Core Values, and these were used in team meetings to clearly identify the culture that Jack wanted to develop and created a staff handbook with all the key protocols and procedures around the farm.
- Annual personal reviews were introduced where we were able to have positive and robust discussions with staff members about their performance along with key plans for the business. Using a 360 process, we also listened to the staff and their concerns and ideas, helping to create a clearer understanding of improvements needed on the farm.
- Regular team briefings were introduced enabling Jack to communicate clearly to the team about important issues, including how the farm was performing.
- A clear organisation chart was established to clarify chains of command and identify where gaps in the team existed.
- The Recruitment strategy was overhauled with some team members moved on whilst new people were brought into the team, including a second in command who could lead the team in Jack’s absence.
- A new staff room, meeting room and office were installed, creating a safe, warm and comfortable place for all staff to eat, rest and have team meetings and gatherings. This created a “hub” away from the parlour and sheds, where the team could meet up, relax and learn more about the business.
- Jack moved away from hourly rates of pay to annual salaries with hours still recorded to ensure that his staff were not working too many hours. This began to reduce the number of hours his team were working whilst productivity increased.
- With reduced hours came the need for more staff which were recruited either full time or part time with a mix of staff housed on the farm with others living locally.
- Rota’s were developed where staff eventually worked no more than 4 days before having a day off and eventually, 40 hour working weeks were introduced.
- Through understanding VITA profiling, each member of the team can flex and adapt their style and reaction toward each other. This increased morale, reduced conflict, and increased productivity,
- Knowing the profile of the team enable recruitment to be more effective by considering how a new member would fit into the team, any likely areas of conflict and proactively preparing for this before the new employee even arrives for their first day.
- Personal Reviews and having core values have enabled Jack to listen to his team whilst also developing a consistent and powerful culture. Staff feel heard and appreciated whilst Jack can provide effective feedback to his team.
- Regular staff meetings create a deeper understanding of what is required on the farm along with fostering team morale and loyalty.
- Staff turnover has reduced due to the lower working hours and salaries have ensured that work is more productive, efficient, and effective.
- Jack can plan the training needs of the team and work each individual towards higher skill levels. This has produced a more flexible and dynamic workforce.
- Jack has got his life back. He can now leave the farm, knowing that effective processes, procedures, and resources are in place. He has time to think, time to plan and time to spend with his young family. He can also plan ahead and develop new projects and ideas both on farm and for his family’s future.