COVID-19 and Its Impact on Talent Management in Agribusiness

It’s been a year since the coronavirus spread and impacted all aspects of our lives. For the past 12 months, everyone has experienced major personal and professional change while navigating the pandemic. For many, just maintaining a status quo has been an accomplishment.

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This is the first of a two-part series on the effect of COVID-19 on recruiting and retaining employees for your business. In this article, we will highlight the areas of talent management that have not only been impacted this past year but will likely remain changed for the future. In the next article, we will discuss key strategies your team can integrate into your talent management process to turn these changes into an effective opportunity.

In a recent survey conducted by Paycor, business leaders were optimistic about the future, yet the suddenness and volatility of the moment are causing anxiety. Nearly 70% said COVID-19 impacted team morale, and nearly 40% said it negatively impacted productivity.

We are all adjusting to a new reality of work, and even in good times, change can be tough. Look closer, though, and you will find hidden opportunities to better define your company, tell a more compelling story to candidates, build a pipeline of talent, and address some of the underlying workforce planning challenges that everyone else in your industry is ignoring.

Looking Forward

As we look with a positive outlook into 2021, we need be aware that while the impact of the pandemic on our health may decline throughout the year, the requirements for how we manage our talent may remain significantly different than how you approached this aspect of your business pre-COVID-19.

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This is much more than remote working and creating virtual meetings and events. It is about enhancing the way your organization will identify, attract, and develop the talent that will grow your business despite new challenges in the future.

What principles do you need to apply, and what pitfalls should you avoid, when enhancing your talent processes? How can you create experiences that will not only work in our current environment, but will remain effective in the future?

Communication. The one bright spot in this process is the fundamentals of sourcing talent have not changed. If anything, one component of successful recruiting has become even more essential than ever before: COMMUNICATION. Organizations that communicate the most effectively, persuasively, and with purpose, will attract the best talent. Creating a culture and process that focuses on growing your connections and keeping candidates informed is more crucial than ever. This is the best way to keep your candidates engaged and alleviate the anxieties caused by our changing landscape.

Industry Experience. Although the “skills gap” is not an ag industry issue alone, it seems to hit our industry the hardest. As we begin to look forward, the underlying realities of the impact of our changing work environment on the already increasing skills gap between where the abilities of the talent pool are, and where we need it to be, is becoming clear. Human resource leaders believe that 54% of all employees will require up-skilling in order to remain effective in their roles within the next two years. That challenge, combined with stark demographics of our aging workforce, will require every organization to re-think their overall strategy for not only who they hire, but also how they will develop them.

Schools and universities are doing the best they can to address these gaps, but that does little to solve the much larger problem of their not being enough ag graduates to fill the open roles — regardless of skillset. Of course, that is not to say there aren’t talented graduates in the job market. But attracting these highly skilled young people, assuming you can find them, will require an updated and effective approach in a post-pandemic environment. The demand for talent with these skills will be higher than we’ve ever seen before.

DIY — Build vs. Buy Your Talent. Regardless of your investments in talent management marketing and process, it still will not be enough to attract a list of highly qualified candidates. Winning the war for talent will require most companies to create a learning environment that allows you to not only train your new employees, but also engage them long enough to grow your talent and succession strategy from within.

It is no secret that training is a win-win for everyone. What may surprise you is how much employees value the opportunity to participate. SAP conducted a recent survey with their customers and industry partners where they discovered that 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development. The same survey found that, for candidates, training is a more compelling factor to join an organization than starting salary!

Employee Experience. The pandemic has permanently changed things for each of us. It has helped every organization, every leader, and every employee reflect on their real needs, question their goals, define what is important, how you do your work, and where you do that work.

This experience has also taught us that we do not need many of the things we thought were necessities (beyond, perhaps, paper products?) to be truly happy. Employers can take this same approach to talent management as well. Define the ways in which your business is making a positive impact, and you have the makings of your talent brand. One that can be used to create and grow your pipeline of talent.

The Only Way Out Is Through Commitment

We are all cautiously optimistic about the future. Despite positive trends, there is still a considerable amount of anxiety when considering how to handle today’s challenges. Your customers, employees, suppliers, partners, and future employees are watching. How your organization approaches the challenges and opportunities in 2021 will establish your reputation for years to come. There is no better time to re-establish yourself as a leader in the industry through added commitment to your team.

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