Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Kids today, yadda, yadda...

I was enjoying Moe Russel's presentation to the IFAO this morning. While he and I are in different parts of the spectrum on some issues like land ownership, he make a powerful case for his analyses of farm profitability.

One point that hit home for me was how attracting, developing and retaining the best people possible could soon be more important than capital, if it is not already. [In the past two weeks, as plans for my son Aaron to return to the farm have become concrete, I awake every day to unforeseen advantages and possibilities his education, experience and energy can add to the farm (and our lives). I think Jan and I have been undervaluing this happy future both to prevent being disappointed and because we simply had not thought it through enough.]

But the trouble is the people we need and are adding aren't sensible 50-somethings. They are (shudder) young people with silly ideas that don't agree with Baby Boomer Holy Writ. We're not the only business struggling to manage these entirely-too-energetic yahoos. So maybe we should extract some lessons from what other industries are learning.
5. Don't conceal, communicate. Young people in business today crave feedback and interaction with their peers and managers, more so than previous generations did. When researchers at professional staffing firm Hudson (HHGP) conducted a survey of 2,000 employees, they found striking differences between generations in their attitudes toward their bosses and co-workers. Twenty-five percent of workers who fall into the Gen Y category consider it important to get feedback from their bosses at least once a week. However, only 11% of baby boomers desire that level of communication. Young employees also want greater social interaction with their peers and supervisors. Maintain an open, consistent dialogue and you will win their loyalty.

Young people fall into a category I call the "EmpowerME Generation" because that is exactly what they are asking from their employers—to be empowered. The 2008 election is proving that young people can be engaged when they feel as though they are making a difference. The same holds true in the workplace. [More of a very helpful article]

Agriculture has tradtionally valued people the same way as draft horses. We admired more than anything "the good worker". As the physical load plummets in farming, we'd better start recruiting for other reasons than being able to stay in the tractor saddle for 18 hours straight. Hard work is now just one criteria.

More importantly we'd better upgrade our management savvy if we want to optimize our return on good people, IMHO.


Wayne said...

I'm 48 and farm in western Colorado. I'm thinking about hiring one person for the first time to help on my farm. Since my Dad is unable to help me now I've struggled with 20 hour days and skipping meals just to be behind about 3 weeks. Luckly we've had late falls so I haven't lost a crop. I know I should give a local high school ag class student a chance but I think I would be trading one job for another; like learning insurance, workman's comp, withholding, and machinery repair from his ineptness, and torn down fences. One neighbor loves having a hired hand so he can have free time to play and the other neighbor would never have a hired hand because of all the problems they cause. I might just wait for the heart attach from the stress and let the problem take care of itself.

Anonymous said...


It sounds like you are single and have no family (and definatly no life). Someone would love to work on your farm and give their heart to the work. Find the right person and the BS will sort it self out. from a 37 yearold with 4 employees.

John Phipps said...


I am truly sorry for the frustration you feel.

But even in jest, your words are painful. No way of life - even farming - can compensate enough for that misery.

We often think we have no choices because we believe there is some nobility in sacrificing ourselves.

Don't do it.