The excitement is in overcoming the challenge, whatever that challenge happens to be, and the reward is in feeling valued for the effort in making the contribution, whatever that contribution is.

These factors are particularly apparent in members of what are termed the millennial generation (born after 1980) who have grown up in a period of relative affluence with considerable attention focused on them by parents.

For all sorts of documented reasons, reflecting small family size and determination to instill confidence in order to be able to survive in a ‘great big global and scary world’, the younger generations are more focused on the excitement and rewards in employment than previous generations. They also have more choices than previous generations; they know that good people can do anything and are choosing careers according to perceived rewards and kudos.

Agriculture, in all its many guises, is suffering, not the least because of the ongoing beat-up of agriculture in the media.

The action plan is promotion.

The challenge is counteracting the negatives with positives.

The really big challenge is that it takes nine good statements to overwrite one bad one (at least according to parenting experts).

The key is to appeal to what the young want most and build from there.

Number one on the Robert Half International list of what graduates want is salary. Second is benefits and third is career development.

The more the industry can promote the financial rewards and possibilities in agriculture and agribusiness, the better. Scholarships and reducing fees in areas of priority (agriculture, agribusiness, agriscience) would assist with getting the message out. Publishing starting salaries for various jobs, rather than allowing them to be published as part of a degree category, or as career averages, would allow informed choices to be made. What can you earn at 16 versus 21 versus 30? What’s possible in accruing assets? The Ministry for Business Innovation and Employment produces Occupation Outlook each year, but doesn’t give starting salaries, or benefits and career development potential which appear to be the immediate concerns of the young.

The opportunity is there for the taking. The average graduate starting salary is $38,000. In agriculture the fertiliser industry offers $48,000 plus a car; the banking package is $55,000 with the car within six to 12 months. On farm the potential to build from dairy assistant to herd manager is high for those who are motivated. Farm ownership by 30 is still possible for those who work the hours and save the dollars. The Dairy NZ Economic Survey in 2014 showed that milk profits in the last 10 years allowed paying off land in less time than two decades ago, despite the increase in land value.

Leadership and brand are also in the top 10 of ‘wants’.

Traditional leadership is not enough to retain and develop staff. Younger generations want to be part of the decision-making and feel that they are influencing progress. This means explaining how their role contributes to the operation and what their opportunities will be in the future. Explanation, with feedback on contribution and potential for improvement, must be regular and frequent.

It isn’t just the young that benefit from this approach – encouragement assists all employees to achieve. The Harvard Business Review Achievers’ Report published in 2013 indicated that high achievers were able to say that they had been recognised for good work within the last week, they had a manager who encouraged their development, and that their associates were committed to doing quality work. This ‘coaching’ creates motivation and engagement and is even more important for high achievers than ‘average’. Universum research published in September reported that top achievers actively sought employment opportunities where ‘leaders will support my development’.

Coaching takes more time than simply telling somebody what to do, but creates an engaged employee who adds value to the business. Engaged employees tell their mates through social media and ripples spread.

As for brand, nine positives to counteract one negative statement is a tall order. A campaign with the slogan Future Food Farming: are you up to the challenge? Could be the start.

Source: The New Zealand Herald

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