Shifts in the Workforce: Position Your Purpose

A look at combatting labor resourcing challenges through the connection of people and purpose

Over the past two years, organizations in the food value chain have seen a staggering shortage in workforce resources that has forced them to think creatively and get even more competitive — especially when it comes to recruiting and retaining top tier professionals.

So how do organizations in the ag-food value chain face off against giants like Google and Microsoft? How do they attract talent when Amazon, Facebook, and Nike are hiring too?  

Recently K&R President David Turner was invited to appear on Farm Food Facts – U.S. Farmers & Ranchers in Action’s podcast hosted by Phil Lempert – to speak about labor force resourcing challenges. Those very questions arose during the discussion and Turner was succinct in his answer: Purpose.

“The answer is purpose. This industry is made up of organizations that feed the world and keep it healthy. That’s a noble purpose. That sort of trumps video games and things like that,” Turner commented. “The next generation cares and wants to connect with something, wants something with a purpose.”

Turner’s statement highlights a growing factor that organizations must account for as they move forward with hiring, whether that’s someone in the field, in the lab or in the corner office. More and more professionals are looking for roles and organizations that align with their morals, have shared values, and give them purpose.

An episode of The McKinsey Podcast centered on finding purpose, dove into the impact a company has on an individual’s purpose and the impact an individual’s purpose has on a company.

During that episode, partner Naina Dhingra said that the company’s research suggested that around 70 percent of people say they define their purpose through work and millennials were even higher. This means that more individuals than ever are looking to connect and contribute.

While the pandemic may have turned the world backwards, it did present a gift Turner said – something the McKinsey data referenced in the podcast reinforced. According to the group’s data, nearly 7 out of 10 employees noted the pandemic as the catalyst for reflecting on their purpose.

“It’s a lemonade out lemons sort of thing,” said Turner. “It forced our perspectives and pushed us to ask if this is what we want to be doing in life – not just as individuals but as leaders of companies and as organizations. This has been an opportunity for many to challenge the status quo and make significant changes, be that a career change or full operational overhaul.” 

On the whole, professionals are no longer satisfied with clocking in and clocking out. They want to be engaged in and contribute to a company that cares about the impact it has. Members of the ag-food value chain are some of the most impactful organizations in business and should remember that when speaking to future hires. 

U.S. Farmers & Ranchers in Action (USFRA) represents farmer- and rancher-led organizations as well as other leaders throughout the food and agriculture sector with a shared vision of co-creating sustainable food systems and a belief that bold action is needed.