Mission: Millennials

September 8, 2015 12:00 PM
Mission: Millennials

Like their Facebook relationships, young working adults commonly referred to as millennials are complicated.
Although prospective farm employees born from the early 1980s to the 2000s often desire meaningful work, they have more job opportunities to choose from than ever before. That means managers must buckle down on recruitment efforts.

Multistate dairy and beef operation Riverview LLP of Morris, Minn., has participated in a circuit of career fairs and recruited recent college graduates. In addition, for the past 15 years, an increasing number of employees have come via immigration. Yet finding people who want the lifestyle of working with cattle can be challenging, explains Kevin Wulf, who handles human resources for the business.

“The kind of farming we’re doing with dairy and beef, it is very much a lifestyle more than a job,” Wulf says. “It is not seasonal like some of the industries are. It is not something where you can just feed the animals and go home in the evening.”

That means in addition to seeking millennial employees among four-year college graduates, farmers should also scout talent from high schools and two-year colleges.

What Makes Them Tick. On a daily basis, J. Scott Vernon interacts with millennials. The professor of agriculture at Cal Poly University in California says young people involved in the industry are just as hard-working as those who have come from any other generation.

“The students I see are not lazy,” Vernon points out. “They want to work at their passions.”
Millennials also want more flexibility in their schedules to enjoy life. Many opt for efficiency, working at all hours of the night and day with breaks in between thanks to mobile devices. They don’t always perform as well under the constructs of a normal workday.

“They aren’t a punch-a-time-clock generation,” Vernon says.

It might also be a challenge to place prospects in on-farm jobs because of location, adds Dennis Landis of Landis AG Placement & Consulting. That’s particularly true in production agriculture, where positions are based in remote locations such as eastern Colorado, western Nebraska and South Dakota.

“More and more want to stay near a major metro area because they like being near the populations with a variety of activities and fun things,” Landis says. For 40 years, he has hired employees in agriculture while working for companies such as Farmland Industries, Land O’Lakes and FCStone. He now aids producers with job placement.

Word of mouth is the best way to locate new employees, experts say. Yet many millennials buck the trend by beginning their job search online.

Recruitment Considerations. As millennials submit applications, farm owners and managers should be aware of factors that will determine whether a prospective candidate accepts a new role.

“One of the biggest things we talk about with hiring this generation is you’re hiring their parents as well,” says Ashley Collins, education and marketing manager at AgCareers.com, which posts 5,500 agriculture jobs each month. “They are very influenced by their parents, and that impacts the decisions they make.”

Internships are another way to open the door to millennials. Annual results from the site’s survey of about 1,000 students indicate college students will consider three to five internships to help narrow down places they’d like to work.

After an internship, nearly 45% of students will gain employment with that business. “If your organization has an internship, that helps build the pipeline,” Collins notes.

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