Guest Blogger: Dr. Quentin Tyler, Assistant Dean/Director Office of Diversity, UK College of Agriculture Food & Environment; MANRRS National Professional President
This is a very important time in the agriculture industry. Among the challenges of feeding a growing population, there is also a need to attract and retain a global and diverse workforce. Many may ask, “Why is diversity recruitment important in agriculture?” The answer lies in the changing dynamics of our country that is playing a direct role in changing the face of agriculture.
First, our nation’s population is becoming more diverse. In 2014, The US Census reported that this is the first time in our nation’s history that more than 20 million children under five years old living in the US and 50.2% of those were minorities. Further, the total minority population is expected to rise to 56% by 2060. In addition to the growth of the minority population, many of the agricultural colleges across the country have an increased enrollment of women. There are many talented individuals from non-traditional backgrounds that can contribute to the creativity and innovation of our industry. If we are going to fulfill the many jobs available in agriculture, feed the world, and sustain our existing resources, we must be open to diversity and willing to recruit, develop and retain diverse talent.
Diversity recruitment is important in the agricultural industry and directly relates to creating a competitive business advantage if leveraged accordingly. Particularly, there are opportunities to capitalize on increasing the diversity in the marketplace, the workplace diversity of your company, and the diversity in your current and future workforce.
Why Diversity Recruitment in Agriculture Matters
• As the face of agriculture has changed, the market has changed as well. Our clients are becoming more diverse, and opportunities exist to utilize diversity to promote our respective industry by expanding to different markets, and creating a brand that resonates with diverse populations.
• In addition to marketplace, the workplace is changing. It is becoming more global, locating in several locations either remote or internationally. Agriculture is utilizing different avenues of communication, and methods of problem solving and creating innovation.
• Lastly, as we look to bring in diverse talent, it is important to understand their respective needs within our company as we bring in the diverse talent to work together in teams for the collective good of our industry. As teams strive to create the competitive advantage, it is important to recognize and acknowledge their diversity within the team, the differing styles of working and thinking, and how to leverage the diversity to achieve the best results.
I will share ways to diversify our workforce and acquire diverse talent through creating exposure, providing engagement, and offering opportunities.
How to Diversify Your Workforce
• Exposure is an important element in diversity recruitment. As we mentioned previously, the world is changing and becoming more diverse. However, the diverse talent that agribusinesses are looking to hire are not only unaware of agriculture careers, but are unaware of the respective companies in the agriculture industry. First, it is important to expose talent to your industry. This can be done at many levels, starting with the pre-college age. I have learned through my experiences that the earlier you start, the better. Partner up with local high schools and middle schools to host tours, events, and field trips to your local company or industry. Is important to establish a pipeline in recruiting diverse talent and build up to create a strong foundation. In addition, there are also opportunities to team up with local schools in areas that are considered diverse and work with special interest groups that focus on women, minorities and other areas of diversity. These groups can potentially be located across the country and will look to partner to receive visits from agricultural representatives to their local meetings. There are also specific opportunities to present on topics relevant to student soft skills enhancement, and create intentional efforts to develop mentorships. Additionally, there are conferences within the agricultural Industry that focus on diversity that would be great way to provide exposure and acquire diverse talent.
• The next area that is important in diversity recruitment is engagement. It is important not only to make contact with diverse students through campus and organizational visits, but to become actually engaged. Set up mentor programs, have workshops and activities that are consistent and require engagement such as mock interviews, resume writing, and twitter chats. Engage with diverse students to develop a feeling of comfort and mutual respect, so they can be open and feel that they can visualize themselves in a role working with your company. In addition, it is important to become engaged so you can create an atmosphere in which you can suggest curricular and co-curricular activities to develop and prepare students and to answer any questions they may have. If you’re a company that has a sponsoring relationship with an organization that has diverse talent, or seeking a relationship, be consistent in your approach by attending a number of events, so diverse students can become accustomed to seeing you and suggest innovative and creative ways to highlight our company.
• The last area that is key in diversity recruitment is providing opportunities. Relating back to my experiences in the industry and as a supplier of current diverse talent, diverse students become exposed and engaged with agricultural companies through coops, internships, shadowing, and scholarships. Word of mouth travels fast, and students can be your biggest marketer if provided an opportunity that is enjoyable, allows for flexibility, and contributes to their overall development.
As we thinking about the changing face of Agriculture, it relates directly to the changing demographics of our country. The key to recruiting diverse talent and creating a business advantage is to expose, engage, and provide opportunities to diverse talent and utilize that diversity in the marketplace, workplace, and workforce.
AgCareers.com is sponsoring the first Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) Diversity Summit. Learn more about this event and register.