Creating a Recruitment Culture in Agriculture

Creating a Recruitment Culture in Agriculture

June 10, 2024

In the ever-changing world of agricultural businesses, the pressing question isn't just about the next season's yield, production, or weather, but increasingly about how to attract and retain talent. As someone deeply embedded in the business transfer, succession, and continuity planning for farms of all sizes, I've noticed a shift in priorities towards building, developing, and retaining a solid team. An important aspect of this shift is recognizing that recruiting is not an event but a process, an ongoing journey that demands attention year-round, not merely when a position opens.

Recruitment should be embedded in an organization's culture, with its mission, vision, and goals transparent not only to current employees but also to potential candidates. This continuous recruitment mindset ensures that farms are always poised to identify, attract, and engage talent, a necessity as the labor market tightens and the recognition, development, and retention of talent becomes increasingly challenging.

In addition, the strategic development of an organizational chart cannot be understated. It's less about the hierarchy and more about identifying the key roles and skills needed to propel the farm forward. This exercise isn't just about filling existing roles but about envisioning the ideal team structure and the diverse talents required to achieve the farm's long-term objectives. By focusing on what the organization needs rather than who currently fills what role, farms can more effectively articulate their needs and attract the right people with the right skills.

To effectively address this challenge, it’s important to designate a team member with a clear focus on attracting and retaining talent. While the pursuit of quality candidates, aka “good people” is undeniably a collective effort across the organization, the presence of an individual dedicated to this task can significantly elevate our chances of success. Merely attempting to accommodate these responsibilities within a part-time capacity often doesn’t work. Just as we wouldn’t consider acquiring a new field or livestock without subsequently investing the necessary resources to maximize their potential, the same principle applies to finding and developing our human capital.

Beyond Compensation: Building a Motivated Agricultural Team

While competitive compensation and benefits are critical in attracting candidates, the true challenge lies in retaining them. The essence of a farm's culture and the tailored compensation package play pivotal roles in not just attracting but also in retaining talent. It's important to understand what motivates potential candidates—be it cash compensation, ownership opportunities, work-life balance, the allure of working with cutting-edge technology, new machines or just being outside.

We should note that the recruitment of middle and upper management is often sourced from experienced professionals seeking a change, thus it requires a measured approach. It's about finding candidates at a point of discomfort or seeking new challenges, which often takes leveraging the strong networks within the agricultural community far beyond traditional recruiting channels. This approach, powered by patience and consistency, enables the matching of the right people at the right time, enhancing the farm's culture towards excellence.  Remember sometimes we find interested people who are not qualified, and sometimes we find qualified people who aren’t interested. This is ok, and part of the process.

This culture of continuous search for good people to join your organization not only aids in filling positions more strategically but also instills a culture of accountability and growth among current team members. By always being on the lookout for new talent, farms show a commitment to excellence and improvement, providing leverage to ensure that all team members are performing at their best. While this isn’t a fore gone conclusion, if new talented people are looking to your organization for opportunities, current employees notice and will over time, be less likely to coast and more like to pedal.

Ultimately, identifying the right roles for talented individuals and integrating them into the organization becomes a transformative strategy, underscoring the principle of getting the right people on the bus, then finding the right seats for them, as advocated in the seminal book "Good to Great" by Jim Collins. This approach not only fosters a dynamic and adaptable team but also ensures that the farm remains competitive and innovative in the ever evolving and changing agricultural sector.