Attracting qualified personnel is top of mind for most seed companies. Almost all conversations I have with CEO and management of seed companies somehow touches this subject. Their companies have grown significantly in the past decade, and more jobs require at least a master’s degree. Combined with knowledge of plant breeding and the regional challenges (not all young people fancy the countryside) lead to a very small pool of potential employees. Being -just- a millennial (1981) I am intrigued by the change in attitude and values of younger personnel. My generation, and before me, were brought up to work hard and get the best out of everything. Why work part time if you can work full time?
The younger generation I feel holds slightly different values. I see examples of graduates who ask for a 3-day job, when they are offered to come in full time. They argue this gives them opportunity to work on their dreams, or hobby’s. They also tend to think more about why we are doing what we are doing. Where before large multinationals provided status and opportunities, these days younger people tend to prefer smaller companies with “meaning” in their business model.
These days younger people tend to prefer smaller companies with “meaning” in their business model
Why work here?
As a small IT company focused on providing services in the niche market of plant breeding; we are blessed by the fact people actually apply on their own. Even without posting job openings. And it is not because we keep low standards, new hires need to fit the culture, have a passion for agriculture, understand the business of plant breeding, understand IT etc. While they are in a job market where they are offered multiple options, some of which are better paid and offer various career options.
When we ask new hires for their reasons to come to us they claim to have a specific perception of our company and our approach. We tend to have high quality standards and work with a personal approach. This personal approach seems to appeal to new hires; implicitly, for them, this feels like there is a lot of room for personal development and entrepreneurship. This “image” originates from customers and our current employees. The latter seems to be very important, especially given the fact that the network within the seed business is very small.
The personal approach and professional skillset appealed to me
What do we contribute to?
However small, people want to work on a bigger goal. This spurs intrinsic motivation, in my opinion the single most important variable for knowledge workers. For us it means we help our customers get better equipped to develop new varieties for food and flowers. This appeals to people with a passion for agriculture, in a way they are supporting to feed the world. However, in their day to day work it might be they are working on developing screens or setting up database structures. Then it becomes important to keep short lines with the daily practice of our customers, for example by offering the opportunity to go on site and discuss challenges directly. How to best manage this varies from person to person. We for example have a less strict role definition so people can fill in this “grey area” in tasks based on their skills and personal preference to make sure you align with their professional and emotional needs.
Create ambassadors and built a brand
But probably the biggest success factor we found is ambassadorship. When you expose yourself to customers, they get to know you. They work with your employees, are soaked in your ways of working. When the company culture is consistent you will, maybe unintended, built on a “brand”. Potential employees are most likely familiar with your sector and pick up on your “brand perception”. When these match, it may be an incentive to come in and consider working for you.
Probably the biggest success factor we found is ambassadorship
Loyalty is important to retain employees and is considered a prerequisite for intrinsic motivation and fulfillment. However, professional challenge and personal fulfillment will only get you so far. In every company people’s lives are touched by life events. Birth, death of a loved one, illness, accidents. The way you handle these difficult situations also contributes to your “brand”. And not just for the person involved. Others will notice and adjust their view of your company accordingly. From personal experience I can say, when done right, this will highly increase loyalty among all employees.
Intrigued? I would be happy to discuss this topic with you. Please drop me a note to get in touch.
Senior Consultant in the plant breeding industry with a passion for organizational development