Ag's HR Coach

Help Millennials Reach Maximum Potential

Lori Culler
By  Lori Culler , DTN Farm Business Adviser
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(DTN file photo)

Millennials today are over 83 million strong, representing about a quarter of the overall population. It seems like every time we turn around, someone is talking about millennials. And no surprise, they were a big topic of discussion at the DTN/The Progressive Farmer Ag Summit this past December.

The rumor on the street -- or should I say dirt road -- from our farm customers is this digital age group is difficult to manage. Here are some of the comments about this age group that filled the air at the summit: "They're lazy," "They're never on-time," and "They don't stay in a job for very long."

It does seem that some millenials fit the stereotype. But looking more on an individual basis, there are still some great hires from this group. Every generation has complained about the up-and-coming generation since the beginning of time. Do you remember what they used to say about the baby boomers coming into the workforce? The clashing of two generations on a farm hasn't just started with the most recent generation.

Over the past 20 years of being in HR, not much has changed. There has always been about 10% of the candidate pool that are all-stars, and then there's everyone else. We need to focus on finding the top candidates and then helping them achieve their maximum potential as they grow.

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We're currently hiring for an intern on our own team. The last three of four candidates, when asked if they had had time to look over our company website, answered "no," they hadn't had a chance. Yes, they actually came to an in-person interview and never looked at what AgHires does. The point is, there will always be a ton of individuals we don't want on the team. But there will always be a few who are great assets to the team.

For the millennials we do want to hire, what can they bring to your farm, and how do we capitalize on their strengths?

Millennials can bring a lot to the table. Need I mention technology? They grew up in the digital world, and with agriculture focusing now more than ever on maximizing the use of technology, millennials will be a strong asset in expanding the capabilities. They're also great multi-taskers; they can handle doing a lot of things at one time and still be able to get things done. I've always been known to be able to handle a lot, but you should see some of our junior employees at AgHires when it comes to their computer skills and their ability to hold a conversation.

Probably one of my favorite qualities of millennials is their ability to be out-of-the box thinkers and their high focus on being efficient. They grew up at a time when there is a constant stream of new information and individuals sharing innovative ways of handling problems, so they are naturally inquisitive about other ways of doing things. One of the best ways to harness the value of a strong millennial is to encourage ideas from them and to implement them when it makes business sense.

As leaders, we need to understand this next generation to help them reach their maximum potential. Millennials, in general, love to learn and grow. They've grown up with a lot of information coming at them. When they go into the workforce, they are looking to be kept in the loop but also to be given an opportunity to expand their knowledge and grow as an individual. We asked on our last performance review, "What skills/talents/interests do you have you feel we haven't made the most of?" This is aimed at ensuring we are capitalizing on their talents and they are feeling they're growing in other areas besides their typical job tasks.

This next generation prefers constant feedback, and they can handle it. They're looking to improve, and they've grown up to be less sensitive to constructive feedback.

Millennials want to see their work directly affect the company. Show them the work they do has meaning, share the "why" you do things the way you do, and allow them to grow in the work environment. This will allow you to have much success with your new millennial work force.


Editor's note: Lori Culler grew up on a vegetable and grain farm and is the founder of AgHires (…), a national employment recruiting service and online ag job board based in Temperance, Michigan. Email and find other labor management tips under Resources at


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