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Bay of Plenty Region
Sunday, April 18, 2021
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New app takes headaches out of harvest

An employment app born out of a family accident is poised to make life easier for orchardists seeking staff over this season’s busy kiwifruit harvest.

Marlborough woman Genevieve Griffin-George has already had strong uptake on her PICMI employment app from Bay of Plenty kiwifruit growers looking for a quicker and more seamless means of securing staff for this year’s harvest.

Griffin-George had the inspiration for the app after she was called back to her parent’s Marlborough kiwifruit orchard from France unexpectedly when her father was involved in a serious orchard accident.

With little previous experience she was required to run the orchard. She quickly found employing staff for the crucial harvest period was a time-consuming task that was as difficult for prospective staff as it was for their employers.

She partnered up with two technology developers to help devise a solution.

“The burst nature of seasonal hiring means that you have a limited time to secure the workers you need,” she said.

“From our field trials, we developed a tool that processes all the jobseekers without effort. The employer just needs to tell them where and when to turn up.”

Matching up applications

With an estimated 24,000 seasonal positions to be filled across the Bay of Plenty this year for kiwifruit, and thousands more horticulture and viticulture positions around the country, she says a large amount of industry time is unduly spent in the clumsy exercise of matching staff and jobs.

Job seekers know straight away if they have a job or not with PICMI.”

“PCMI avoids becoming stuck in the weeds of job boards, emailing and repetitious paperwork and chasing up details.”

The app’s standardised workflow, which includes a templated NZ Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated seasonal employment contract, also captures induction, health and safety, IRD and employee details, removing the need for physical contact and paperwork.

Filling in details and agreeing to the contract can take as little as 20 minutes, and has sliced up to two hours off application time per employee.

“Our newest Bay of Plenty customer registered 670 jobseekers and 450 of them secured contracts to work this season. Of the contracts sighed 45 percent of them were signed within one hour, and 80 percent within one day.”

Delays in getting workers

Griffin-George said a big problem for employers are the delays between making contact with prospective staff and getting them on the ground working.

“Job seekers know straight away if they have a job or not with PICMI. Most apply for many jobs and then wait, hoping to hear back. This causes frustration for both jobseekers and growers, who find that many applicants actually are not available.

“We can increase the capacity of our labour force by enabling jobseekers to find work that suits their needs and gives them the flexibility to choose, part-time, full-time based on location.”

The ability of the app to integrate with other business tools including payroll programmes improves compliance and transparency in a sector increasingly aware of the need to ensure staff are looked after.

Griffin-George received an innovation award for her app at the 2019 Mystery Creek Fieldays, and has since worked closely with growers to fine tune its work-flow and ability to be customised to individual grower needs.

Employers can also see in real time how their recruitment programme is going, comparing actual uptake with required, detecting any impending shortfalls in particular skill areas, such as forklift operations, for example.

First time users of PICMI receive the first 10 staff sign ups for free, with each subsequent employee sign on costing $19 each.

She says interest has been strong from overseas growers, particularly in Australia.

“The problems we are working to solve are not just going to impact farmers and growers in New Zealand, as they are global problems.”

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