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Are shorter-term employees in agriculture’s future?

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  • A growing concern for U.S. agriculture is that U.S. employees from the Millennial generation (ages 20-37) are leaving jobs after several years on the company payroll to seek a new job. How could this impact U.S. agriculture?

One of the great success stories in U.S. business is the financial viability of many agricultural enterprises; in addition to producing crops, livestock, and fiber to feed and clothe the world.

Most farms are successful business enterprises – small and large – and owe their success to years, decades, and perhaps generations of family experience, top-notch employees, perseverance, and making tough ‘make-or-break’ business decisions.

As farmers are aware, having the best employees in key positions can definitely impact an operation’s direction and long-term profitability. Yet, this could be threatened by the new trend in business today where many employees leave jobs after one to several years for hopefully greener pastures.

Allied Grape Growers (AGG) Chairman and wine grape grower Mathew Andrew touched on this topic during his report at the group’s recent annual meeting in Fresno, Calif.  Andrew shared a video which suggested that employees now and in the future (business in general) will likely stay with a company for 12-18 months, pack up, and move to another company.

According to the video, the average worker could have 10-14 different jobs in their working career - and here’s the shocking part - by the age 38. Another video bullet - 25 percent of all workers will change jobs every year.

These predictions are tied to job expectations for the Millennial generation – those ages 20-37 years young in the workforce. Jumping online, I searched this topic and came upon on a number of thoughts, including one which recommends that employees only stay with a company for four years max.

The reason for frequent job change is so employees can stretch and grow…quickly.

Another posting suggest job jumping is the new normal for the Millennial generation. Millennials are a 70-million-strong workforce which represents about 25 percent of all U.S. employees.

Is employee longevity and company dedication about to follow the tracks of dinosaurs?

Andrew asked the crowd, “In the grape community, how can you form and maintain a working relationship without the commitment of time?”

Andrew’s question is spot on – a question likely on the minds of millions of rural employers across the nation. While input costs, water availability and scarcity, food safety, and rising land prices are on most farmers’ front burners, it may be time to nudge the short-term employee issue to the hot spot.

At first glance, I personally don’t think decreased job spans will become much of an issue in agriculture. Then again, that’s probably the same thought that other businesses groups had when the two-week notices were slipped into employer mailboxes, just after employees' first-or-second-year company anniversary.

Do you – growers, allied businesses, human resource folks - have an opinion on this issue? Will it impact agriculture and at what level? Have you taken initial steps on this issue? Should you? What are the positives and negatives for agricultural employees and employers with short-term jobs?

Western Farm Press would like to hear your views on this timely topic. Chime in and share your viewpoints by sending me an e-mail at cblake@farmpress.com. Note: Some comments could be included in a Western Farm Press article.

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