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How to hire, motivate employees in a changing workforce

The agribusiness industry must rethink its hiring strategies in order to attract and keep quality employees as an older generation of workers retire and millennials take over.


How the agribusiness industry works is changing as the aging baby boomer and Gen X workforce gets ready to retire and millennials take over. Not only does this change the way companies in the industry recruit employees, but it also changes the strategies used to retain a quality workforce.

A panel at USPOULTRY’s Feed Mill Management Seminar in Nashville, Tennessee, on March 20 spoke about their experiences in successfully hiring employees and motivating them to do their best work and stay with the company. Panelist members included Larry Hooper, Perdue Farms; Joshua Rengstorf, OK Foods; Cass Taylor, George’s; and Kenny Avey, Simmons Foods.

Working with millennials

Although the strategies for accomplishing work in a feed mill or poultry plant may differ by person based on their age and experience, it is important to keep in mind the end goal.

“One thing I learned about millennials is that I don’t think the way they do; I don’t work the way they do,” Hooper said.

But, he stressed that what’s important is that, despite differences in methodology, the employee gets the job done, and safely – not necessarily how a millennial goes about doing this just because it’s different than an older person might.

Another difference is that, unlike older generations used to working nine to five, millennials want a better work-life balance, which Rengstorf said could cause companies in the ag industry to rethink their scheduling of shifts. He gave the example that, at one facility, he had open positions on night and day shifts; while he received 15 applications for the day shift, he only received two for nights.

Encouraging employees

All panelists agreed that providing support and incentives to all employees is crucial to attracting and keeping top talent.

They also all agreed that involving employees in the business and making them part of the team has been part of their success in retaining their workers.

Taylor advised that if you have a good staff and good supervisors, you should try to support them however you can so they can efficiently do their jobs. Hooper echoed this sentiment, saying, “If the [truck driver] comes in and thinks he needs new tires, just put ‘em on the truck."

Taylor emphasized that, to retain employees, it is important to have paths for them to advance in their careers with the company, as well. Other ways panelists suggested to retain workers were extra pay or time off for working extra, attendance bonuses, paying for training or education, employee luncheons and connecting with them on a personal level.

“It’s about relating to them as a person, not just a boss,” said Taylor.

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