AgCareers.com recently gathered a group of agribusiness HR leaders in Indianapolis, Indiana to discuss current challenges in talent acquisition. A nice mix of companies were represented, and the organizations varied in size, which contributed to well-rounded conversation (JBS United, Equipment Technologies, Tom Farms, Dow AgroSciences, Total Seed Production, Inc., Elanco, and Beck’s Hybrids). Despite the difference in size of company and the nature of their businesses, the group seemed to echo similar challenges.
Talent Attraction emerged as a key discussion theme, as we began exploring challenges as a group. The group indicated four areas of importance to focus on when examining talent attraction strategies.
2. Job Descriptions
4. Company Brand
Let’s take a closer look at what was shared as the group talked through their experiences in each category:
One best practice that was shared centered around the cultural fit of applicants. Screening talent for cultural fit first was highly recommended, with true job fit being a secondary factor. Several of the companies utilize assessment tools, and referenced experience with the following: DISC, Predictive Index, Kolbe, Myers Briggs, and McQuaig. However, it was noted that the assessment tools were mainly used AFTER the person was hired to give insight to managers. The cultural fit (along with soft skills) is generally assessed through face to face interaction, as it’s not easily determined through an assessment tool. The idea is to identify the “bar raisers” that fit culturally, as training can be provided in the job fit category to address technical gaps, thereby enabling someone who fits culturally to hit the ground running and essentially “raise the bar” in their role. It was also mentioned that a company’s culture, and the communication of that culture, is especially key in attracting entry level talent. Does the company own their history, and are they embracing the path of innovation? It can be challenging to manage the expectations of today’s new graduates when it comes to sharing the advancement opportunities available or outlining a clear career path. The group agreed that it’s important to share that new roles are emerging every day, and the path is not always clear……however, providing clear expectations on the behaviors and attributes it takes to be promoted tends to be the best way to address talent questions around advancement.
2. Job Descriptions
There was a feeling amongst the group that many job descriptions we use today are in need of serious help in order to really appeal to the talent they are targeting. A best practice was shared around having the company’s marketing team write the external job descriptions (external meaning the description that’s posted on AgCareers.com to appeal to industry professionals). The clinical, more structured description could still be displayed on the company’s career site, thereby ensuring everything is covered with an applicant before they submit their application for the position. It was also mentioned that marketing’s version of the job description should be tied to the company’s culture to really portray the opportunity fully. That tie to culture needs to come straight from senior leadership, so the true vision and actual opportunity shines through to grab the attention of the right talent. You have a very short window to get the right talent to quickly identify your opportunity as a match in meeting their life goals, strengths, and personality. Another method of appealing to talent included utilizing video and audio clips within the job description.
The location of a job can pose all kinds of challenges in filling the position, and the group identified a few considerations to keep in mind, as well as solutions when it comes to location. One tactic to rise above competition for talent is to work intentionally on having real local impact within the community. Sponsoring events aligned with your company’s vision and mission shows passion and helps share what the company is all about with the community. Establishing employee resource groups can also help make your opportunity attractive for people local to the area, as well as those who would consider relocating. For those considering relocation, it may also be applicable to demonstrate the benefit of saving money with the move if the standard cost of living is lower where the opportunity is. Creating a mentor program was also mentioned as a solution (it’s important to note that the mentor should not be the person’s boss). This was especially important when attracting interns to a location, as it can have a positive effect on retention for a full-time position in the future.
4. Company Brand
The group discussed the shift to social encouragement, and shared tactics for spreading positivity about the company. The idea is to pin point employees that embody the essence of your culture, and empower them to help tell your story through their own social networks. You can also encourage them to send pictures to marketing (or the social media lead for the business) to post out on the company’s social platform to really show a “day in the life”. It was suggested that it was beneficial to have three main focuses when it comes to promotion of a company brand on social media (1. Overall Corporate Messaging 2. Geographically based Product Promotion 3. Recruitment Driven Messaging). Notice, there is a unique category for Recruitment Messaging, in order to be intentional about utilizing social avenues to attract talent. One of the group members referenced Instagram as a successful talent attraction tool, which is noteworthy, as the others in the group were quite surprised. It is no surprise, however, that having a mobile friendly site is crucial in the marketplace these days.
Utilizing social channels to tell your story is important, as several in the group shared that consumer misconceptions about agriculture and where food comes from has narrowed the talent pool. This disconnect will not only continue to make recruitment a challenge, it will narrow the choices and availability of food for future generations. Ag companies are stepping up to the challenge of educating the next generation, and social encouragement is a great way to tell our story.
Overall, the group really covered a lot of ground exploring some of the challenges of Talent Attraction, and we could have continued talking quite a bit more that day! Great conversations were happening, and it was exciting to see peer connections established. This mini networking session was a great precursor to our upcoming Ag HR Roundtable Conference…this year will be our 15th year for the event! Everyone can find value in networking with industry peers, and this year’s conference offers relevant content on all the hottest topics as well. Be sure to get registered for August 1st-3rd at the Westin Crown Center in Kansas City, Missouri before we are sold out!
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