The agricultural industry is growing to meet demand, and in order to keep up with that demand we need more employees… talented employees. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a sufficient number of resumes of only qualified candidates to fill your next role? Unfortunately for most, this just doesn’t happen. Considering jobs in agriculture, numbers are impacted even further by the perception of careers from those outside the industry, retirement figures and overall population statistics.

More than 60% of agribusinesses expect 1 to 10% of their staff to retire in the next two years1. When AgCareers.com surveyed students, only 12% reported that their peers in other degree programs outside of agriculture see the industry in the same positive light that an ag student does2. When you consider the number of youth entering the overall workforce compared to those expected to exit, there is a large gap and the competition for talent is going to become fiercer than ever. This gap and war for talent is even more evident within the agricultural industry.

Overcoming this gap and increasing the pipeline begins with branding your organization. Employer branding, like product branding, is about perception and in this case about the employee experience at your organization.  Reputation means a great deal to candidates. When asked specifically about company brand/image, nearly 80% of job seekers indicated that the company brand/image was important or very important in selecting which jobs to apply for.3

Having a strong employer brand eases recruitment and increases employee loyalty. To evaluate employer brand, consider how different touch points would be perceived by potential candidates. From the company website to the receptionist’s greeting and the organization’s involvement in the community, to the image portrayed at a tradeshow, all of these possible points of contact portray an image about the company’s brand. Google the business and yourself!  Listen to what existing staff says about working for the business.

Many mistake employer branding with expense.  There are tactics involving some expense, and often there is people resource/time, but employer branding does not have to be costly. For example, develop a standard follow-up procedure for applicants that apply to your job openings. The number one complaint AgCareers.com hears from job seekers is that they don’t hear from the employer after submitting their application.  At the very least, set-up an automated response to let the candidate know you have received their resume and when you expect to get back in touch with them or fill the position.

There are definitely things that can be done to impact employer brand that cost money and should be done, like a website that has a clear career section or a description that allows potential applicants to know how to apply to positions. There are also advertisements and career fairs. These are helpful and results oriented ideas – the key is to make sure that your organization is getting the most out of these avenues. For example, does the job description convey the employment brand with a brief description about the organization?  Are you sending the right person to represent your business at career fairs – someone that can really sell the organization?

There are also some logistical aspects to consider when focusing on attracting talent. As you develop job descriptions for the roles being recruited for, involve the manager/supervisor. Seek input on actual job functions and try to articulate the role and responsibilities as closely as possible. Limit the qualifications to those that are required or preferred.  It is easier to be broader in this area and screen for the ‘would like to haves’ after you’ve seen all of the applicants.  Include a specific location when possible, as well as a salary range. If the salary range is negotiable, that is acceptable to include.  Be sure that the description is current and legitimate if you reuse a job description.

Plan ahead - as often as possible forecast your recruitment needs. Consider several options for reaching potential applicants. Word of mouth and networking remain the most effective sources of talent within the industry, but casting a wider net through online job board advertising, such as AgCareers.com, and corporate websites closely follow. A long-term strategy could include reaching out to those that might influence career decisions, such as high school teachers and counselors as well as university and community college faculty.

1 AgCareers.com 2014-2015 U.S. Agribusiness HR Review™

2 AgCareers.com U.S. Education & Enrollment Outlook Report – 2013 Update

3 AgCareers.com 2010 Job Seeker Survey