A major agriculture company recently complained to me that they had over 3000 jobs to fill in the Midwest and they could not find trained talent who were willing to take these jobs.
I know this might sound crazy if you are someone looking for a job or if you are in an industry where you are laying people off rather than having jobs to fill. However the media doesn't report on the jobs that are available they are more likely to report on the loss of jobs in America.
As a consultant and trainer in the agriculture industry (I grew up on a working farm so I have first hand knowledge of the mentality of agriculture people) I told the CEO on the phone that they had a PR problem. Interestingly about two weeks later there was news media coverage on CNN about jobs available in the agriculture industry.
There are a number of reasons why recruiting and retention is a challenge in the agriculture industry such as younger generations like Generation Y (those in their 20's) are shying away from labor jobs and are more attracted to technological fields and that Generation X (those in their 30's) do not want to be away from their families for long periods of time and thirdly that Zoomers (Baby boomers 50 and to about 28) are retiring.
But these reasons do not have to be seen as a negative when looking to recruit and retain specifically for the agriculture industry, rather there is an opportunity to focus and 'sell' the positives to each of the demographics so that we are providing custom lifestyle values that will entice talent to the industry.
Here are 6 ways to recruit in the agriculture industry:
#1- Build your recruitment campaigns around the values of each of the generations. For example driving a tractor today is very different than it used to be. Today's equipment is tricked out with the latest technology- users can access the web, use auto functions and have increased safety. This needs to be communicated to Generation Y's who can accept repetitive work tasks (like driving a tractor) if they are told about the positives. They can access Facebook or they can work mornings and afternoon and evenings free or some days they will be working 14 hours but they can work in a season and make as much money as they might make in a year at another job.
#2- Look at the communities and what they offer younger generations and families. Recently in Entrepreneur magazine (October 2011) there was an article about two Generation X agriculture employees who found that there was nothing for them to do outside of work in their small town, nor were their family activities that appealed to today's tech savvy kids. They set out to create weekly Wii and X Box championship gatherings and they set up a Web Cafe for brainstorming and sharing tech resources. An opportunity for an agriculture company is to find ways to add value and enhance the communities where they employ workers.
#3- Look for industries with similar values when recruiting- with many military workers returning home they are an ideal talent resource. Those who have worked in the military are typically disciplined, willing to work hard and are used to being away from family for periods of time.
#4- An obvious yet underused recruitment tool is referral incentives. Your existing talent pool is the perfect place to solicit for more workers that are exactly like them. Encourage your employees to use social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Linked In to reach out to their circles of influence to engage and invite their peers to join the agriculture industry.
#5- Use media more vigorously- You Tube is the 2nd highest search engine on the Internet- research shows that we are all drawn to video as a communication tool more than any other medium. Create modern, edgy and values focused video to tell your agriculture company story and to engage and invite talent to apply for jobs in your company. Video tape your happy workers of all ages and have them tell their story as to why they love the agriculture industry. Every one of your websites should have engaging video on your home page and on your recruitment pages.
#6- Once you have recruited you need to make sure you retain them. Most generation Y's will only stick around with any employer for a maximum of three years. Rather than see this as disloyal- see it as an opportunity to keep them for as long as you can. Positive on boarding strategies are crucial to increase retention as are recognition, rewards and good leadership. If companies are not focused on retention strategies then they will find themselves constantly recruiting because of high turnover.
It is an exciting time for the agriculture industry in 2011 and beyond- it's a great problem to have so many jobs available that other industries would love to have!
In order to recruit and retain for the agriculture industry we need to integrate what has worked in the past with new strategies that include technology, modifying hours and the way we work and matching what workers want with what your company can provide.
Cheryl is the President of Synthesis at Work Inc. and an internationally renowned keynote speaker. She provides practical tools and creative strategies for CEO's and their leaders to increase leadership skill that helps to recruit and retain top talent. Cheryl has worked in the agriculture industry for a number of years and grew up on a working farm in Saskatchewan Canada. http://www.cherylcran.com/