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Marketing is key in today's feed and grain labor market

4 strategies for finding and retaining top workers by standing out in a crowded market.

People Spark Spark Phone
People Spark Consulting

In many cases, when we recruit, we post and pray. We all know the drill: Post the job description and pray that qualified applicants will apply. This strategy may have worked (at least, sometimes) a few years ago when we were in a different labor market, but it doesn’t work today. The current market requires us to change our recruiting paradigm and put on our marketing hats. That’s right — marketing is the new recruiting. Just as you identify, target, and market to your ideal customer, ag leaders must figure out how to identify and connect with their ideal job candidates. Here are four strategies to point you in the right direction.

Stand out from the crowd

Whether you stroll down the street or scroll around online, “Help Wanted” signs are everywhere. Now hiring. All jobs. All shifts. As your potential future employees wade through the sea of job postings, it’s up to you to persuade them to join your company. That’s why, in this overwhelming market, you must differentiate yourself from the competition. It starts with making attention-grabbing ads.

  • Include pictures. Ads with pictures are more likely to get noticed. Some ideas: A photo of the animals your business is feeding. A shot of your employees working (happily!) together. A picture of your team helping a smiling customer or engaging with the larger community.
  • Focus on the business and the culture. Be sure to convey what’s special about your company culture. Is there a monthly BBQ? A post-harvest celebration? Job training and career development? Flexible hours? Whatever it is, be sure to call out what makes your business different from all the others vying for an applicant’s attention.

Talk to your current employees

If you feel daunted about describing your company culture, here’s a tip: Ask your current team what appeals to them about their job and the broader work environment. Listen for words that describe values, like “respect” and “collaboration.” During a recent conversation like this with one of our client teams, an employee said, “My worst day here is better than my best day anywhere else.” Talk about high praise!

When you speak with your current employees, let them know you appreciate everything they do for the business. Tell them you want to hire more people like them—and to do that, you’d like to ask them a few questions. What do they like about working here? What have they learned since they started working? What would they tell someone who was considering a job here? All this information will help you create compelling job postings.

Bonus: Let an employee write the information for the ad — it’s a great way to recognize hard work and to keep folks feeling engaged and valued.  

Go where your ideal candidates go

Where do your high-performing candidates spend time when they’re not at work? Who do they connect with? These answers will expand your thinking about where to post your ads. Consider these creative outlets for your “Help Wanted” sign:

  • Managing a retail store and need employees to work nights and weekends? Consider your local high school- or college students. Does your school or county have a 4H program or FFA? What about horse shows or other events that attract students who are interested in animals and agriculture?
  • Looking to hire part-time, seasonal CDL drivers? Some of the best seasonal drivers are retired farmers who want to be involved but don’t want to work full-time. Where do retired farmers spend time? It could be at church, a community hall, or a local diner or cafĂ© (in our hometown, it was the deli at the Hy-Vee grocery store).
  • Filling positions that require lots of physical labor? We had a landscaping client who was struggling to hire, especially for physically demanding outdoor jobs in the summer heat. The solution? Posting jobs at a local gym explaining, “We’ll pay you to work out.”

Show applicants what to expect

Historically, it’s been possible to recruit employees with an ag background—folks who understood the business, knew the work, and may have grown up with feed duties on a farm. As this population shrinks, new hires may lack the background and experience in agriculture. They don’t know about the industry or what to expect in your business.

Show them. Record a video capturing the business environment, the work that’s being done, even the machinery being used. It doesn’t need to be polished; just use your phone to shoot footage of your retail store, warehouse, or mill. You can even include the video in your job posting or share it on social media for even more outreach.

More effort — and greater reward

We won’t deny that finding and hiring great employees takes more work today than in the past. Rethinking your approach to marketing and recruiting requires more time and effort, but it’s worth it in the long run. You’ll attract more, and more qualified, applicants who will be motivated and excited to help you move your business forward.


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