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‘Upskilling’ may be the new answer to farm hiring problems

Hire folks who are flexible, adaptable and curious, then give them the skills they need for your operation.

Can’t find decent, qualified employees? You’re not alone in the current competitive job market. Unemployment rates in the United States hit the lowest levels in the past ten years, with an average monthly unemployment rate of 3.89% in 2018.

AgCareers.com surveyed employers for the 2018-2019 U.S. Agribusiness HR Review. These agricultural organizations said the most significant factors influencing workforce planning needs were turnover, retirements, recruitment difficulties, and the need for different skills/classifications. When we asked employers for the reasons they attribute to recruiting difficulty, the top response was “applicants do not have the required skills.”

Candidates may have basic transferable skills but need specialized skills– skills particular to an industry or occupation– to excel on-the-job. However, employers report that hiring for attitude rather than hard skills has been a successful strategy. This is because many technical, product, and company-specific hard skills can be taught on-the-job. Therefore, the concept of upskilling or reskilling becomes valuable. These terms are often used interchangeably, but specifically upskilling refers to teaching employees additional skills or improving what they already have in their skill set. Reskilling is giving employees the opportunity and/or resources to gain new, needed skills.

Hiring right, upskilling, retaining

How do organizations compete in a job seekers’ market?

  • Ag employers most frequently use a cross-training system for staff development and training. Rotational programs are a key aspect of upskilling, exposing employees to all segments of the operation.
  • Training and development are the top way ag employers motivate their staff to keep them productive and challenged by their role. Nearly 70% provide job-specific training.
  • More than half of ag employers offer a tuition reimbursement program to all or some employees.
  • Almost 70% of agricultural organizations provide staff with growth and advancement opportunities to maintain and improve culture.

Start by hiring right. Flexibility, adaptability, curiosity; search for these key soft skills in candidates, important indicators of willingness to be upskilled. Likewise, look out for current employees that are open to change, willing and able to learn new skills. These employees are prime targets for reskilling.

Promoting your upskilling and reskilling techniques will boost recruitment initiatives, raise retention rates, and lower the skill gap at your operation.

Discover more ag HR trends in the full 2018-2019 AgCareers.com U.S. Agribusiness HR Review to be released soon.

 The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress.

TAGS: Management
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