People are usually pretty surprised when I tell them I’m a farm kid. I guess I don’t look the part from stage in a suit and tie. People can’t see the torn up Carhartts hanging in the closet or the ten pairs of mismatched jersey gloves in the front porch, but I assure you they’re there. Today I’m blessed to travel around the world and work with some of the brightest minds across a myriad of business sectors but I actually got my start in the ag world.
I was born on a 4th generation farm in Southern Minnesota and had the good fortune of growing up working alongside my father, my grandfather, and great-grandfather. At times it was the greatest gift ever and at others it was pure hell. I shoveled more manure and picked more rock than most people can imagine. It was hard work but it shaped my character and my perspective on things like work ethic, ownership, and tenacity.
This year has been interesting in that I’ve had the chance to collaborate with a number of communities around the United States anchored by the agriculture, energy, and transportation sectors. As someone who grew up walking bean fields to pay for his Jordan’s, I have special place in my heart for these people.
Today these industries are extremely important for our world. And while they may at times struggle with recruiting the next generation of talent for their perceived lack of curb appeal, they have a lot to offer. The challenge industries like these and others face is not that they’re not great opportunities for the next generation workforce, it’s that they’re not telling the right story.
Just like brands tell a story in the marketplace to consumers, companies and industries tell a story to their potential workforce.
The question is, what’s your story?
Leaders in more industrial industries usually say to me, “What should I say to this new workforce to get them to work for me because let me tell you something, WE’RE NOT GOOGLE!” What I always tell people is that you don’t have to be Google or Facebook to leverage the story the tech space has embraced.
The story kids hear from the tech community today is YOU are empowered to create game-changing disruptive innovation at any age. This is what the Hackathon Culture is all about. This is what the Maker Movement in the manufacturing space is all about. Anyone, anywhere can come in and create something amazing in a relatively short period of time. Anyone can have a great idea. Anyone can have a seat at the table.
Remember, this generation is watching as people their age – 16, 20, 25 – create billion-dollar companies. You’re recruiting against that level of empowerment. So when we say, “Come in, pay your dues, do the grunt work, and maybe after 10-plus years you can do something really interesting and make an impact in the company or the industry,” it’s not effective
Industries that require you to get a little dirt under your fingernails have to tap into the bigger altruistic reasons for doing business. You have to reach out to young people and say, “Come help us change the world. Yes, there will be hard work involved. And yes, we have super high expectations and big, big plans to change the world, BUT we believe you have what it takes to help us do it.”
Now, that’s a more inspiring call to action than “We have great benefits and job security.”