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Synthesis Agri Food Consulting: The War for Talent.

The War for Talent.

By: Synthesis Agri-Food Insights
November 24, 2009 Volume 1, Issue 7
Helping you understand agriculture's challenges and opportunities by analyzing the issues and sharing their insights -the Synthesis consulting team Rob Hannam, Mary Lou McCutcheon, Julien DenTandt, Peter Hannam and Heidi Dancho. www.synthesis-network.com

The war for talent.

Recruiting and retaining talent has always been critical to success of any organization. Agri-businesses, farm organizations and agricultural schools are all competitors for talent.

We are a sector with tremendous opportunities, but also one that is hampered by a traditional, non-glamourous image and misconceptions that make recruiting and retaining people difficult.

"The war for talent is moving to a whole new level in the agri-food sector," says Rob Hannam, President of Synthesis Agri-Food Consulting. "This is a sector that has tremendous potential in terms of human resources but is often overlooked."

Many people associate a career or education in agriculture solely with primary production, which they link with long hours and low pay. And to the up and coming Generation Y students and future employees who have grown up surrounded by technology and are keenly seeking work-life balance, that's not always a very attractive proposition.

But this is far from true of the realities of the modern agri-food sector and the many different career paths it can present. In addition to primary production, career opportunities abound in research, marketing, packaging, transportation, communications and finance.

To Hannam, this means agriculture needs to change the way it is perceived and how it presents itself if it hopes to be successful in attracting skilled employees in the future. Individual companies or organizations can also benefit from building a marketing plan to support in their recruitment efforts.

"In this day and age, it can be hard to keep ahead of the competition solely on the strength of your product's price, features or benefits," he says. "It's the people that make the difference and we need to do a better job of promoting our industry and appealing to people who would never normally consider bringing their skills to agriculture."

To that end, perception is key, as the University of British Columbia's Faculty of Agricultural Sciences learned when it decided to change its name to Land and Food Systems in an effort to boost enrolment numbers. A decade later, the department has the third largest enrolment in the country even though it is the smallest of Canada's eight agricultural faculties from a staffing perspective.

Attracting top talent is also important to farm organizations, which depend on volunteers from the farming community to sit on their boards and participate in their committees. As the number of farmers continues to decrease and agriculture becomes more diverse, more organizations are competing for fewer available individuals to fill leadership roles. Here too, how organizations are perceived by their members makes a big difference in their ability to attract the next generation of leaders.

Insights - So does this mean and what should be done?

Take a look in the mirror: Take stock of your corporate or organizational brand and your approach to recruiting. Start with your corporate website. Consider any "touch point" you have with potential new recruits including industry events, job fairs and your current employees.

Build a marketing plan: Treat your recruiting efforts like you would a product or service. Build a marketing plan to recruit top new talent. Start with listing your objective, then dissect your audience: who are you trying to recruit and what makes them tick. Finally, develop tactics to try and reach that target audience.

Develop an industry approach: Industry initiatives that bring companies and other groups together are needed to bring new talent into the agri-food sector. By working together, you can focus on an overall vision for the industry and change some of the current perceptions that exist with those outside our industry.


Who is Gen Y?

Also known as Millennials - first generation raised in the age of advanced technology and communications - born approximately 1977 - 1994.

What they seek from their careers:

* Work-life balance
* Access to advanced technology
* Fun and lots of opportunity for socializing
* Corporate social responsibility
* Challenge and constant change
* A workplace that is a casual and comfortable
* A credible employer, which they often judge based on the quality of the corporate website.

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