1 Simple Step To Hiring And Retention In Ag Retail

By Mark Waschek

There are three significant trends pertaining to the ag industry workforce which merit consideration: A growing shortage of qualified workers, the workforce is increasingly mobile, and human capital is fast becoming the most valuable asset for top-performing companies.

As a result, top talent in the ag industry remains increasingly difficult to attract, recruit, and retain. Most employers agree that finding the right talent is a prime issue facing their management team, and it isn’t for a lack of trying. Businesses are allocating more resources than ever before toward appealing to prized candidates. And yet, even when employers are able to attract top hires, overall levels of employee engagement remain low.

In addition to satisfaction, most employees are failing to perform. Many agribusinesses we work with tend to blame the seasonal challenges of the industry, lack of skills, not enough experience in the market, and (perhaps most commonly) the attitudes of different generations. With these challenges, it’s easy to accept the current industry trend of having only 50% of new employees meet or exceed expectations, and they aren’t surprised with many new employees leaving before 18 months of employment.

However, contrary to popular belief, abilities, skills, nor generational differences are the primary reason why new hires fail. Instead, a personality or behavioral style that didn’t match the role is at the top of the list. Recognizing how a candidate style matches the responsibilities and expectations of a role is a simple process that is overlooked by most organizations.

Building and sustaining an effective workforce will be THE decisive differentiator for successful organizations as labor challenges in the ag industry continue to tighten. It has been proven that the way we manage ourselves and our relationships with others, define an employee’s performance in the workplace. In other words, an employer’s ability to identify a job candidate’s style, and in what type of environment they will succeed, is key to predicting their performance potential, job satisfaction, and retention.

Factors to Look at

Consider these factors:

  • What is the behavioral style of your employee team?
  • How do salespeople interact with their prospects? Does it match the culture you are trying to build?
  • How does your delivery driver react to changes in plans?
  • How will a representative respond after getting rejected 20 consecutive times? Is that the right person to have in a territory with low market share?
  • How does your manager respond to the basic needs of their team when they themselves are having a stressful day? Is that the right person to implement the changes you expect?

Unfortunately, few organizations really understand the way in which their people actually operate when faced with change or stress or challenges. Research by the Korn Ferry Institute has verified most managers were afraid to believe. The combination of a resume and a face-to-face interview is accurate only 50% of the time in predicting the future success of that candidate. This study confirms that half of your hires aren’t what you thought, and you might be spending a significant amount of time and money on your interview process with candidates that aren’t a fit.

Using an Assessment Tool

Fortunately, there is a solution. Companies that use a simple assessment tool as part of their interview process not only enjoy a significantly higher success rate in hiring but have a much lower employee turnover rate. These tools are administered online, and take less than 15 minutes, enabling hiring managers to clearly predict the tendencies of an employee, and assist them in determining how well (if at all) they fit the challenges and requirements of the position they are applying for. This results in:

  • Efficiency and Savings
    When the assessment is completed before an interview, no time or money is wasted on interviewing candidates that are clearly not a fit.
  • Hiring Accuracy
    When open to candidates with less experience, the true potential and style can be identified to assist in predicting success.
  • Reduced Turnover
    When a candidate with the right behavioral style for the role is hired, they stay engaged and will remain in that role much longer than an employee that isn’t a fit and finds themselves in uncomfortable situations each day.
  • Improved Teamwork
    When assessments are completed with each employee, the organization will have an understanding of “why people are the way they are.” This will improve communication when managers learn to adjust communication to match the style of direct reports, and when coworkers understand their teammates.
  • Succession Planning
    An employee’s behavioral style is also an insight into their ability to do future roles. Recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of each future leader ahead of time will give your management team time to work with those key employees to recognize areas of improvement or assist them in a career path that best fits their style.

Author Jim Collins, in his book Good to Great, stated that great companies “get the right people on the bus, sitting in the right seats and if an appropriate seat cannot be found, to ask the person to vacate the seat as soon as possible.” Unfortunately, in ag, it’s easy to become focused on the tactical (a person that wants the job, and looks good on paper) rather than the strategic (will they still be right for the role in two years) and end up mismanaging a company’s greatest assets, their people.

With these tools providing such a positive return on investment in their interview process, it’s no surprise that top companies in the ag industry are recognizing the need to evaluate and develop talent with the use of behavioral assessments to better understand and predict the behaviors of both future and existing employees.

There are a variety of assessments available in the marketplace; those that measure intelligence, behavior, personality, emotional quotient, attitudes, skills, etc. Which ones should be used? The answer depends on the job itself and precisely that which the work environment requires of an individual.

Next month, we will discuss some of these tools, how they can be easily integrated into your agronomy operation, and how their results will enable you to enhance your culture, increase profitability, and successfully grow your business. To learn more about the tools today, contact us to discuss your options with the experts at Ag 1 Source.

Mark Waschek, Vice President of Agronomy for Ag 1 Source, originally wrote this article for the February 2017 issue of Crop Life Magazine. You can find that article by clicking here.