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Will we have enough seasonal workers? How to forecast & track for certainty

Here’s the million dollar question that creates intense pressure for growers—"will we have enough seasonal workers when we need them?"

We are starting to see the return of migrant workers and growers are saying that job seekers are wanting more flexibility of start and end dates as well as hours per week.

Put these together and you’ve got enough to worry about with getting people signed up, without having to spend time working out whether you’ll have enough workers in the right roles at the right times.

At PICMI, we’re all about giving people simple tools so they can know where they stand, get out of the paperwork and get back to the work that matters.

We worked alongside some growers in Central Otago to help them forecast and track their seasonal workforce and so we wanted to share what we’ve learned. We’ve built these features into PICMI, but have also provided them here in a spreadsheet so anyone can use them.

In this blog, we’ll talk about why it is worth spending time forecasting and tracking, share our top tips and set out step-by-step instructions on how to use our templates. Our goal is to get you out of the weeds of counting contracts and juggling start dates. So that you can invest more time in attracting workers and staying connected with them to ensure they turn up.

What we'll cover:

How can forecasting and tracking help?

There are a few different techniques that people have told us about—counting contracts, writing out lists of start dates and marking calendars to try to understand whether they have enough workers starting in the right roles at the right time.

By putting information into a simple spreadsheet before the season, and then adding to it as you go, you’ll be able to get a clear picture of where you might have gaps (and how big they might be). Not only will this give you clarity, but you can share it with others in your business so they can have regular updates on how the seasonal worker recruitment is tracking. (And stop them from asking you all the time!)

Once you have these views, you can make decisions about where you need to focus.

  • Which role needs the most attention? For example, do you need to focus on thinners who will start earliest, or tractor drivers where you need a particular skill set.

  • Which hiring stage needs the most attention? For example, do you need to attract more workers (so you’ll be thinking about ads, incentives, returning workers), assess the ones who have applied (check their fit with your roles), or onboard those who have signed up to make sure they show up when expected (chase up workers to get contracts signed, ensure their details are in payroll and that you’re keeping in touch about start dates).

Getting started with forecasting

You can start your forecasting up to six months in advance. We know of growers who have been able to secure returning workers up to five months before work starts. So once you have sorted out the numbers you need, you can start contacting past workers to lock them in for the coming season.

Forecasting is simply listing the roles you’ll need (eg. thinner, picker, packer, tractor driver) and then estimating how many of each you’ll need for the coming season.

Tips for forecasting

  • Use the numbers from last season to guide your estimates

  • Get input and sense-check the numbers with others in the business such as Operations Managers and Supervisors

  • Don’t spend too much time trying to get them right—the one thing you can count on is that they’ll change

  • Consider what will be different in the coming year—what’s changed?

    • Land size/number of blocks to be worked

    • Crop quantities due to growing conditions eg weather, disease

    • Crop types to be harvested

    • Mix of worker types available eg. more RSE workers, fewer backpackers

    • Automation eg. picking platforms

  • Make sure you add some on top to cover drop-offs. We’ve heard from growers that this could be between 5-10% but sometimes up to 20%.

Here’s how forecasting works in our template:

Getting started with tracking

Start your tracking as soon as you get your seasonal labour recruitment underway.

What information should you track?

For each job seeker, here is the critical information to track:

  • Role they applied for

  • Name

  • Email

  • When they signed a contract

  • Date they can start

  • Date they want to finish (if relevant)

  • Hours per week available

And here are some extras that would also be useful to track:

  • Status of their application (eg. applied, offered a contract, signed a contract)

  • Whether they showed up when expected

  • Whether they are still actively working or have dropped-off

  • Source eg. RSE, local, working holiday visa (this can be useful when applying for RSE ATRs)

Tips for tracking

  • Keep it simple so the task itself doesn’t end up in the ‘too hard’ basket when things get busy

  • Do small, frequent updates so the paperwork doesn’t stack up and become an overwhelming task

  • Work out who needs to know what, so you can regularly keep others updated on the progress of the hiring—so they stop bugging you! The forecast chart in our template can be a useful quick view for those who need to understand the status.

Here’s how tracking works in our template:

And then you’ll be able to see (and show others) this:

Next level—start date tracking

If you want to take it further, we have also included a start date count and chart which will enable you to track how many workers you will have starting on which dates.

From this, you’ll be able to see where you need more workers and where you’ll need to bring start dates earlier.

How to get started with the forecasting and tracking template

Our template is designed to give you a fast start and you can use it in either Excel or Google Sheets.

You’ll be able to see the data you need and some sample data which helps you to see how the charts works.

  1. Download our free seasonal labour forecasting and tracking template

  2. Start with the Forecast sheet

    1. put your roles into Column A

    2. for each role, put in your forecast number of workers for the coming season

  3. Then, when you start hiring, head into the Tracking sheet

    1. delete the sample data (but not the headings)

    2. record the details for each worker you hire

  4. Check out the chart on the first sheet to see how many more workers you need for each role

  5. If you need any help with this, please book in for a free seasonal hiring consult.

We hope that this blog and template will help you to get on top of forecasting and tracking your seasonal labour this year. There is very little that is certain when it comes to seasonal recruitment, but with simple forecasting and tracking, you can ensure that your business knows where it stands and that you can focus your time in the right place.

If you’re looking for a way to really transform your seasonal labour forecasting and tracking, check out how PICMI can help.

How PICMI can help

With PICMI, you can:

  • Display and export data from last year—which roles, how many people applied, how many people signed up, how many people stayed and did the job.

  • Set a number of vacancies for each job which counts down as workers sign-up so you can easily see how many more you need.

  • Get visibility of where workers are in the sign-up process. Are they nearly there and just need a nudge to sign the contract or have they abandoned early and are unlikely to complete.

  • Collect all the information from a jobseeker about their availability and start dates.

  • Mark invitations, applications and contracts as cancelled (and so can workers) so you have a clear view of how many workers are progressing and/or likely to turn up.

Please book a free seasonal hiring consult—we’d love to find out more about your business and how the forecasting and tracking in PICMI can help you to answer the million-dollar question, “will we have enough seasonal workers when we need them?”


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