Fulfilling Leadership Roles When the Talent Pipeline Runs Dry

The CEO of an agricultural is getting ready to retire—but there is no one in the company who is ready to take on the responsibilities of that role. How will the organization handle this challenge from a personnel perspective? There are a couple of different scenarios of how this situation could be handled.

First, perhaps the company does have someone internally who is a great leader, but they just are not ready to become the CEO just yet. This scenario must be handled delicately internally by management, because the organization does not want to alienate the leader by not selecting them as CEO, nor do they want to hire someone from outside the company and then when the leader is ready to take on a higher role, they have nowhere to go within their organization, so they leave.

In this case, the best solution is for the organization to hire a CEO who is very experienced and nearing the end of their career. They can fulfill the CEO role and mentor the up and coming leader. When the new CEO is ready to retire, then the younger leader will be ready to step into the CEO role.

The second scenario is that there is a large gap between an internal employee being ready for the role and the vacancy. In this case, the company management and leadership need to do some serious soul searching about if they are truly ready to develop a succession plan. If there is not a succession plan in place, then the organization is going to end up in the exact same spot in another 10 years. What is needed in this case is a CEO with a track record in developing talent for the long-term; a candidate that can put the company on a path to develop a better succession strategy and get the right talent in place for the future.

In both scenarios, organizations should work with a recruiter to determine the style of leader that would fit the company’s short and long-term goals.

The agriculture industry is very niche based and technical, and often organizations end up missing out on excellent candidates because they are too narrow with their candidate requirements, particularly requiring specific niche experience. The agriculture talent pool is already tight, and outstanding candidates from other sectors of the agriculture industry may still have all the necessary skills to help a business grow—even if they don’t have experience within that specific niche. For example, knowing how to build and lead teams, work with a cooperative board, develop community relations, manage finances, and/or run a profitable business are skills that candidates may have that are transferable across the industry. In some cases, organizations may have an operations manager who understands the specific technical aspects of the actual business, so it may not be necessary for the CEO or manager to understand the specifics at first. However, candidates moving across sectors should have a willingness to learn about the new sector.

Often, when candidates take on a new job, they usually do not understand what the job is—they have to learn on the job in their first few months onboard. Candidates usually take jobs because it is something new and challenging that they have not done before. Hiring managers need to remember that candidates are typically not looking to make lateral moves or take a step down to a do a job—and if they are willing to do that, there may be solid reasons they are not a good fit.

Another solution that many organizations are using to help fill stop gaps in their talent pipeline is contracts. A lot of candidates are hesitant to move their families to rural America, and the agricultural economy offers a lot of uncertainty these days. A candidate could move their family for a job and then find six months later that their new employer is merging with another company, leaving them without a job and stuck in a new community with few relationships to lean on. Contracts offer a mutual commitment between an employer and employee providing security and guarantees. The guarantee could be for a certain period or could be based on reaching certain milestones.

At Ag 1 Source, we help our clients navigate through these situations on a daily basis, so if these scenarios are something you need help to guide through and make those transitions, we are here for you.