By Dr. Casey Bradley and Jon Hoek, Summit SmartFarms
The Wall Street Journal and Washington Post reported in September and October of 2021, 8.7 million workers left their jobs. Why? Workers are feeling unappreciated, burned out, and most are just mentally drained from the post-pandemic stress. They are leaving jobs for better pay, flexible schedules, remote work options, and improved work-life balance. The reopening of economies post-Covid has created a surge of opportunity for the job seeker.
The publication “The Great Resignation Update: Limeade Employee Care Report” illustrates a few key takeaways on why employees left their jobs,
- 40% of employees cited burnout as a top reason for leaving. Employees were so dissatisfied with their situation that more than one-quarter (28%) of all respondents left their jobs without another job lined up.
- Employees were primarily attracted to their current job based on the ability to work remotely (40%) and other forms of flexibility. An additional 24% reported not being restricted to complete job responsibilities during set working hours as a top attraction.
- Job changers are generally happy they made the switch to a new role. On average, respondents reported a 22% boost in feeling cared for as an individual by their new employer and a 22% improvement in comfort regarding disclosing a mental health condition compared with how they felt at their previous employer.
- The potential for a reset between employee and employer is real. The post-pandemic economy has created flexibility and opportunity for a “non-traditional” approach to labor. Many companies have been able to adjust business processes to accommodate.
The report also listed the top reasons job changers were attracted to their new position:
- Ability to work remotely according to personal preference: 40%
- Better compensation: 37%
- Better management: 31%
- Better company reputation: 29%
- Better work-life balance: 26%
- Flexible work schedule: 24%
Pig production, however, is not as flexible, processing pigs is not something we can do remotely. What can we learn from the Limeade Report on how to navigate this new era of talent management?
The solution may be easier than we thought. Traditionally we have hired full-time team members and set schedules. However, with technology and a little entrepreneurial spirit, the solution may fit the needs of today’s labor force and the needs of the farm. We are already using one of the solutions today, by hiring contract power-washing companies primarily to wash our finisher units. Imagine this concept applied across different segments of our production systems. The stay-at-home mom that wants to earn extra income while her children are in school, but can only work 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Several jobs on our farms do not require a team or a dedicated time of day to complete, such as processing pigs and vaccinating pigs. But let’s take a step further; what if you sub-contracted out all your vaccinations and processing work, and similar to a cleaning crew, they could come and go on the days scheduled per farm to accomplish these tasks and work around their schedules. For accuracy and quality, you can create an audit and bonus program.
But how do we solve the challenges with jobs that require a crew? Obviously, robotics and A.I. technologies need to be explored for capabilities in the next five to ten years. But what if we consider the entire family when we hire someone? In 2021, move.org estimated the average childcare cost for the state of Iowa to be $9506 per child per year. That is nearly 15% of the wages of a working couple making $16/hour, but for a single parent, it is nearly a third of their income. The reason parents need flexibility is because of their families and farm and shift work hours do not always align with childcare options. But what if we created childcare centers within companies or in cooperation with a group of producers that worked the hours of our employees. Imagine that our school buses are not hauling just pigs anymore but transporting our employees’ children to and from school and activities. Ultimately creating a community center of our own, and we invest in proper early childhood education and tutoring services for our families. Just imagine the loyalty we would create in our immigrant labor force by just investing in their children’s future and truly bringing the family back into the business of the swine industry.
Ultimately technology will change our labor force, but it will still be up to us as managers and owners to change our culture and adapt to the new employee. Are you up to exploring new opportunities and creating an industry that once again brings back purpose and family into the equation for all our employees?
Summit SmartFarms is devoted to creating irresistible places to work in agriculture by simplifying the complex by equipping people to optimize performance through technology. If you would like to learn more about how Summit SmartFarms can help your organization, you can email Jon at [email protected]. Dr. Casey Bradley, president of the Sunswine Group is a contributing author to this article.