Farming is the backbone of Mid Canterbury, contributing a significant share to the Ashburton District economy. With an increasingly culturally diverse workforce operating in the district, ensuring all staff feel supported is vital to protecting the productivity of this thriving industry and the wellbeing of the community.
Rakaia Island Ltd is a local farming business leading the way in nurturing their diverse workforce. Their approach to managing their team is explored in the second episode of the 'Welcoming Workplaces' video series.
Like the name suggests, Rakaia Island is situated in the middle of the mighty Rakaia River, but don't be fooled - it's larger than you might think. Stretching 14km long and 1.5km wide, this 15,000 hectare property is home to a farming operation that's large enough to almost be considered its own community.
There are four dairy sheds, 6,000 milking cows, 19 houses and around 40 staff who keep the whole operation ticking along.
Leading this team are Mike and Annabelle Haworth. Tony McNeill, a Welcoming Communities Ambassador with Immigration NZ sat down with the pair to discuss how they manage a culturally diverse workplace where 12 different nationalities are represented.
"We try to be inclusive and involve them [the staff] in social activities," Mike explains. "When they first arrive, we welcome them and point out the local facilities - what's in the area that they can do and what they can't do. We talk to them about the health system here, the local banking system and just make sure they are very comfortable in their new environment."
Two pastoral care ladies work during the week providing meals at lunchtime for staff. They also act as a supportive ear for anyone in the team who might have problems.
"Pastoral care means looking after the people and helping them settle into the community. They can feel they are in a home away from home," Annabelle says. "The employees really value having the pastoral service care here. It's something that not many other businesses offer. It's something that helps to settle our staff and helps to retain them...making sure that they are cared for in an environment that is not too dissimilar from their own home.
Another initiative that Mike and Annabelle are looking to implement are photos of their Standard Operating Procedures. English is not the first language of everyone on the farm, so an image of the procedure is intended to help all staff understand how they perform particular tasks.
Mike also has some useful advice for other large farm operators who want to make their workplace more welcoming: "Engage your staff early on. Get them involved in what your values are, make sure they are settled into their houses and community...and make sure they understand they can come to you at any time."
The 'Welcoming Workplaces' video series is produced by the Ashburton District Council through the Welcoming Communities programme. The purpose of the videos is to showcase welcoming workplace 'champions' in the Ashburton District who are thriving on diversity and creating a culturally vibrant and invigorated workplace.
Follow the Welcoming Communities - Ashburton District Facebook page to see more Welcoming Workplaces as the episodes are launched. To learn more about the great things happening in Ashburton to make it an even more connected place for newcomers, or ways to make your workplace a more welcoming space, visit wccanterbury.com.