The issues around labor, the challenges to hire and retain, and the desire to continue upgrading and managing on boarding and benefit programs are all topics that business owners in any industry bemoan. Agriculture has our own very unique set of issues AND opportunities to contend with, so this week, in keeping with the 6 Fundamental Shifts in Ag series, I’ll cover three.

First, competition for labor is intense.

A 2018 survey of 100 agribusiness managers found that a whopping 70 percent reported that their number one human resource (HR) issue involved competing for the same workers, including the challenge of setting themselves apart in recruitment.

It is also not easy to entice someone into farm work, especially today, when most people are far removed from production agriculture. The appeal of a labor-intensive job with long seasonal hours is diminished when compared to a job with regular hours, a more comprehensive benefits package, and a climate-controlled work environment.

Second, you now need to understand how to recruit and hire workers from outside the U.S.

While fairly common in dairy and vegetable crop operations, farmers in specific sectors (such as row-crop) have not traditionally pursued these kinds of workers. Learning to navigate the regulations—and the language barriers—is a new experience for many.

Third, the labor pool may be a lot more feminine than you think.

In developing countries, women are the ag labor force; have you considered maternity leave for your tractor drivers, harvesters, and milking technicians? If not, it may not be long before you do. As international labor becomes more common, your next generation may even hire more women than men to do general farm tasks.

In leadership roles, the pipeline is increasingly female, as well. In fact, fifty-two percent of respondents to an survey indicated that they had hired more women than the last time they were surveyed. This change is not likely the result of a mandate or even a preference to hire more females. Instead, this shift could be because more young women are qualified and available to hire than ever before. More women graduate with college degrees than men. Women also earn more agriculture degrees in majors that are both science- and business-oriented.

Going forward, personnel managers of the general farm labor pool must be trainers and will need to possess foreign language skills. 

The cost and diversity of both quality executive talent and general labor are changing fast. Don’t be left behind-begin to evaluate how this shift looks for your operation.

ACT Like A Pro out there!
-Sarah Beth Aubrey