Seasonal Labour – Time to Make the Most of It

Lockdown regulations, travel restrictions and social distancing requirements loom as major challenges when it comes to attracting and retaining a diminishing pool of seasonal workers for Australia’s upcoming spring and summer harvests.

While businesses may not be able to influence the measures implemented to stop the spread of COVID-19, seasonal labour expert, Simon Drum from PSVC Advisory, says Australian producers can do a lot to maximise the productivity of labour they have access to.

Performance Matters

Even with the progression of automation and technology, the majority of fresh produce operations remain heavily dependent on seasonal workforces. The performance of this labour pool has a profound impact on yield, quality, production costs and ultimately, profits.

Key factors that can undermine the retention and productivity of seasonal workforces include:

  • Underestimating the practicality of labour intensive tasks
  • Not considering the attractiveness of jobs when designing the workforce size and composition, shift lengths and accommodation and transport arrangements
  • Under resourcing training and supervision of the workforce
  • Not setting, measuring or enforcing clear and reasonable daily performance benchmarks
  • Not doing what’s been promised with weekly or whole-of-season net pay

Your Reputation is Everything

Working Holiday Visa holder numbers have dropped from 141,999 in March to fewer than 83,000 in July, making it even more important than ever to ask, ‘What’s in it for the worker?’

Potential candidates do their research, trust their peers and (in the case of foreign workers) rely heavily on the international communities here in Australia. The internet, social media and word of mouth soon paint a picture of what it’s like to work for a company.

Little Changes = Big Results

Operators often underestimate the influence they can have in improving the effectiveness and efficiency of their seasonal workforce. Giving the right people, the right training, to do the right tasks while supervising, treating and paying them appropriately will:

  • Build a profile as an employer of choice
  • Attract higher calibre candidates
  • Minimise turnover and maximise return for future seasons
  • Reduce administration, induction and training costs
  • Achieve the lowest/unit or kilogram costs

So, how much is it worth to your business to make some minor changes to optimise your seasonal workforce?

Simon Drum is the Managing Director of PSVC Advisory, a Melbourne based consultancy specialising in assisting vertically integrated agribusinesses improve market alignment, efficiency and profitability. For more information, contact: or 0407 567 250.