Looking into the crystal ball for 2018 and beyond
by David Turner, Managing Partner
Far-reaching global trends are transforming how organizations in the food, agribusiness, and life sciences sectors work together to feed the world and keep it healthy. Attracting, developing, and retaining talent who understand these trends can be a major challenge for our organizations. Here’s a summary of what’s happening and what it can mean for talent across the food value chain.
Generational and Gender Diversity
As a global average, the population is aging. In 30 years, the number of individuals older than 60 is expected to double. Many companies are inducing older workers to retire, but these seniors possess valuable skills and experience, and many will want to work longer and retire later. We see an opportunity for organizations to rethink policies for older workers, retaining their skills and knowledge even as other industries or competitors leave them behind.
In seven years, millennials will comprise 75 percent of the world’s labor. Even as younger workers flood the global workforce, few choose careers in agribusiness. Even fewer enter farming. Farmers’ average age is nearly 60 in developed countries. Surprisingly, even in Africa, where nearly two-thirds of the population is younger than 24, farmers’ average age is also 60.
Our organizations need to pursue comprehensive talent acquisition and retention strategies that begin with educating youth in secondary schools and universities about the dynamic career choices and opportunities available to them in food production industries.
Cargill is setting a good example by investing in projects and partnerships that begin at the primary and secondary education level and continue through higher education institutions in the areas of agriculture, food security, and food safety.
The push for female leaders is getting stronger. We see a continuing demand for female leaders at top levels of agribusiness. Recently, we met with two global agribusiness giants and both have a goal to hire females for 45 percent of their talent needs.
Studies show gender diversity is good for the bottom line. A 2015 McKinsey report found that public companies in the top quartile for gender diversity produced higher returns. A Credit Suisse global analysis of 2,400 companies found that organizations with at least one female board member yielded higher return on equity and higher net income that those with no women on the board.
While the gender gap appears to be closing in small- to mid-size agribusiness companies, it remains wide in bigger companies. The industry needs an action plan for attracting and developing female leaders. In the meantime, significant opportunities exist for talented women, especially those willing to relocate.
Declining Labor Force Mobility
Global urbanization, a labor force reluctant to relocate, and immigration obstacles pose challenges in attracting top talent to agribusiness, especially at the farm level.
Talent increasingly chooses to live and pursue careers in urban centers. The U.N. projects that in 12 years 60 percent of the world population will live in urban areas. Global urbanization is true for workers across all education levels and marital statuses and across single- and multiple-earner households.
Top talent can advance a career without having to move. Today’s technology enables time- and location-independent work. Globalization and greater labor market homogenization mean desirable jobs exist in more locations. To attract and keep top talent, we can think flexibly about where and how people work. We can consider offering commuting opportunities, virtual and remote offices, and talent centers in bigger cities.
Immigration obstacles will further limit talent mobility. In many countries, it can be easier to work illegally than legally. Immigration legislation, and in some cases public opinion, will need to change. As an industry, we can continue to advocate for more open cross-border migration that allows the best and brightest talent to apply their skills wherever the need is greatest.
Increasing Food-Source Disconnect
Consumer priorities are shifting. Historically, and for most of the developing world today, people want safe, affordable, nutritious food. For the growing global middle class, and especially in rich societies, people also want convenient, tasty, emotionally satisfying food that is good for the earth and friendly to animals.
As the food value chain becomes more globally integrated, growing segments of consumers care about the source of their food. This dynamic means organizations close to the farm need talent that brings more consumer insight into their businesses. Consumer packaged goods companies on the other end of the spectrum need talent that brings deeper understanding of agriculture. It also underscores the need for more consumer education to confront anti-technology myths and reverse the trend toward non-science-based ingredient bans.
Overcoming Our Industry’s Talent Challenge
As our industry becomes more sophisticated and complex, it needs the best possible talent across expanding skill sets and experiences.
The challenge for each of us is that the best talent doesn’t need a new job; it knows its value and has legitimate options. The best talent also values factors beyond compensation, such as location, and work-life balance, and will be more difficult and more costly to attract.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but here are a few key takeaways:
- Actively build and develop a leadership team and workforce more diverse in make up and skill set to manage well across an enlongating value chain.
- Rethink approaches to older workers to avoid losing the benefit of their knowledge and experience to our organizations.
- Be intentional about attracting youth to careers in the agriculture and food system.
- Be flexible about where key personnel are located.
Kincannon & Reed can help.
The trends shaping our expanding, multi-faceted industry are affecting large portions of our businesses, and their implications go well beyond talent. As a global executive search firm specializing in the food and agriculture industry, whose principals themselves have led food, agribusiness, and life sciences companies, Kincannon & Reed understands the dynamics affecting your organizations. We can help.