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Shortcut through the maze

January 2010

THE COPES

Who: Lyndell and Rod Cope
Where: Middle Tarwin, South Gippsland
What: 385-cow herd
  • Value good employees
  • Recognise it is important to be good employers
  • Documented position descriptions using online templates
  • The People in Dairy website is a good place to start 

Gippsland dairyfarmer Lyndell Cope considers herself a basic computer user but has discovered a whole new world through The People in Dairy website, which is produced by Dairy Australia.

“I think of The People in Dairy website as my shortcut through the maze of information related to employment issues,” Mrs Cope said. “It really is scattered all over the web but The People in Dairy website makes it easy to find what I’m looking for.”

Mrs Cope and her husband, Rod, dairy at Middle Tarwin in Victoria’s South Gippsland with assistance from two-full time employees, Dianne Butterworth and Phil Isaacs.

The 385-cow herd calves in two batches, with most calving from July 1 and a smaller group calving from mid-April.

The Copes have had employees for the past 13 years, with Ms Butterworth having been with the business for six years.

“Both Dianne and Phil are wonderfully matched to our business, and our family,” Mrs Cope said. “We’ve experienced the immense value of having good employees. We recognise that it’s a two-way street so it is important to us to be equally good employers.”

About a year ago, Mrs Cope joined a People Focus group, which worked through the main issues around managing people on dairy farms. “One of the first things I did was document job descriptions for the positions on our farm,” she said.

“In the past we’ve relied on everyone’s memories but the process of putting it on paper helped us clarify things we’ve done for years without ever thinking about.

“It makes you think about what you expect from your employees and also what they are capable of.”

Mrs Cope started with the templates available on The People in Dairy website.

“It was really easy,” she said. “I just saved the templates onto our computer, and adapted the material to relate to our farm.”

She used the job description templates for an assistant herd manager and a farm hand, deleting the content that didn’t apply to their situation, and adding in extra things as needed.

“For example, I do the calf rearing, so I removed that from the assistant herd manager job description but I added in more detail on pest and weed management,” she said.

Create a position description
Tip
Go to position descriptions to get a template or download The Generator to start creating position descriptions for people on your farm.
Mrs Cope now visits the People in Dairy website regularly, using it as the starting point in her search for information or tools related to people management. “It’s a really easy place to start and has links to other websites that are hard to find,” Mrs Cope said.

“A good example is looking up awards and pay rates. In the past I would have to make several phone calls to find out which government department had the information I needed. Now I just log into People in Dairy and it takes me straight to the information I need, any time of day or night.”

The same goes for workplace health and safety issues. Mrs Cope starts at The People in Dairy website and uses the links to take her to relevant websites such as Worksafe Victoria and FarmSafe Australia.

“I can get the information I need without even knowing what organisation I’m looking for,” she said. Mrs Cope also uses the new ‘People Basics’ tab on the website to cut through the details.

People Basics makes it even easier for dairy employers to take a first step into addressing people issues without being overwhelmed by the wealth of information available.

The People in Dairy program leader Dr Pauline Brightling said dairy managers often asked, “Where do we start and what do we do?”

People Basics guides the user through the issues that usually come up when an employer starts looking at people management – for example, “What does the law require in terms of pay rates, time off, safety, etc?” and “How do I get staff to perform well all the time?”

“People Basics is the place to start,” Dr Brightling said. “Once farmers start working through these issues, they become interested in related topics or want to look more closely at a particular issue. And from People Basics it is usually just a click or two to get to the relevant details.

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