Agriculture professionals from in and around the Kansas City area gathered on April 3, 2019 in Overland Park, Kansas to discuss their top talent acquisition challenges. The peer networking group was compromised of 23 representatives from 18 different companies of all sizes representing 16 different industry types. The diverse atmosphere and backgrounds made for a great conversation about the challenges each company faces daily when it comes to recruitment.
Among the numerous topics that were discussed in each group, 3 key issues rose to the top. Retention, Remote Locations & Transportation and Career Pathing. While some of the organizations participating differed in industry type, they could all relate with these topics.
It’s no surprise that this topic quickly rose to the top for each representative. As we talked through this issue, many suggestions were given, and experiences were shared. Several shared the use of their employee dashboards. These technologies allow employees to take training classes, set yearly goals and communicate with their manager or supervisor. Other specified technologies were also introduced that allow manufacturing training, job qualification and even interview training for supervisors.
Mentor programs were popular among the conversation as well. Pairing entry-level employees or interns with a long-time employee or supervisor kept retention rates at 92% for one company. These types of programs allow the new employee to adapt to the company culture and give them a sense of acceptance and belonging they may be looking for.
The idea of a “retention bonus” was also offered. The bonus might not necessarily be named a retention bonus to the employee, but it is given to recent graduates on a yearly or even quarterly basis. This type of bonus might also be a student loan repayment to other companies.
Other suggestions to handle retention were to offer free lunch to an employee or even using a wide array of survey tools to encourage employee engagement. Keeping employees involved and engaged in the organization is key.
A big takeaway and suggestion for anyone in HR who is wanting to tackle their retention is to first measure your retention. If you do not currently measure it, you have no way to know where your company is and where to go next. Another helpful tool is salary benchmarking through AgCareers.com’s Compensation Benchmark Review. This allows you to stay competitive in the industry and retain current employees and attract new ones.
Remote Locations & Transportation Challenges
Much of the agriculture industry deals with remote locations and transportation issues for their employees every day. When you are in a rural area, you must get creative to attract new talent to the area and keep current employees from moving to a more urban area.
Many organizations have leaned on USDA loan programs for employees so they can purchase a home in a rural area. Building and maintaining relationships with realtors in the area is also a good idea to stay connected. Other companies have simply purchased houses for the employee and they set up a payment plan to buy it back.
Even in small towns, chamber programs are very strong and widely utilized. Don’t hesitate to get your company active in those programs and make connections. Having the support of the local chambers as well as community partners that support your business is key.
Not only is getting new employees to relocate to a rural area but what about work for their spouses or daycare for their children? Some companies have had the ability to employ both spouses or even aid in building a daycare for their community. There are many factors that go into relocating somewhere and if the specific area does not meet the needs of your family, it makes recruitment even more difficult.
Luckily, some companies can take advantage of the H2A/H2B Visa programs for any seasonal labor they may have. Another way to target employees in remote locations is to focus on the younger demographic by implement programs for them right out of high school. Work closely with FFA advisors and guidance counselors at your local high school to promote these programs or even partner with local community colleges. Out of 23 attendees, 7 of them are currently utilizing programs like this to target the 18-22-year-old demographic.
Career Pathing Challenges
Just because you hire an employee for a specific position does not mean they will want to stay at that position forever. According to the AgCareers.com Candidate Experience Survey, the #1 thing candidates are looking for in an employer is job fit. This is where career pathing comes in and is unique for every organization and employee. To have successful and happy employees, career pathing must be a priority. There is no one size fits all for employees and employers must be flexible.
To ensure the employee is successful and happy, managers need to communicate with them more than one time per year about their responsibilities and goals within the organization. Career path surveys are a great way to reach employees and figure out where they would like to be within the organization throughout their career. These surveys are not only distributed during orientation but throughout the employee’s life cycle.
Employee engagement is also very important for the millennial generation. Many companies implement leadership development or manager in training programs to guide younger employees toward success and pair them with a more tenured member of the company. These programs will provide feedback from the manager/mentor who will help them grow in their role through self-management and goal setting.