Farm Food Facts

The Shift In Food And Ag Labor Resources

September 29, 2021 USFRA Episode 113
Farm Food Facts
The Shift In Food And Ag Labor Resources
Show Notes Transcript

Our guest today is David Turner, President of Kincannon and Reed.  He has been serving clients across the globe for Kincannon & Reed for nine years before being named President in 2019. Fluent in Spanish and Portuguese, David holds a BS from Arizona State University, an MBA from Thunderbird School of Global Management, and an Advanced Certificate in Executive Search and Leadership Consulting from Cornell University.

Prior to joining Kincannon & Reed, David led PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Canadian agribusiness practice and served in international positions across Cargill’s animal nutrition, grain milling, and meat processing businesses. David is actively involved in the search profession and leads Kincannon & Reed with a vision and understanding that the leadership placed will impact the food and agriculture industries.

Phil:

US Farmers and Ranchers in action would like to recognize the sponsors of the 2021 Honor the Harvest forum . Welcome to Farm Food Facts. I'm your host, Phil Lempert. We hear a lot these days about labor and labor shortages from the farm to the executive suite, as the pandemic has had a major effect on all levels of our workforce and the way that people are looking at the life work balance today, our guests is a very special guest from Kincannon & Reed , David Turner, who's the president. Kincannon & Reed is the leading global team that provides search expertise and executive experience to the food and ag industries since 1981. So what's so important is for us to really get to the root of what the problem is and how we can connect people with the right roles and organizations. Kincannon & Reed is the leader when it comes to helping ag. So David, welcome to Farm Food Facts.

David:

Thank you Phil. Glad to be here.

Phil:

So Kincannon & Reed was founded 40 years ago. A lot of changes in food and ag over those decades, for sure. What's the biggest change that you've observed in recruiting executive leadership that we should all be aware of?

David:

Yeah, there , there are lots of changes and , and my tenure with Kincannon & Reed has been nine years. So I can't speak for the full 40, although , uh, all of us come from , from an industry background, I happen to be ex Cargill and , uh, ex PWC ag leadership in Canada. So , um, look, I think from a talent perspective of the agricultural and food value chain is , is not immune from the so-called war on talent and , and, and has been under various levels of attack. So to speak under the, over the last 40 years. I think the thing that I would, I would talk about today that maybe isn't, you know, isn't the , the, the, the, the most important leadership change, but it's one that's very present and acute today is just an increasingly shortage of talent that over the last 10 years, I've just seen get kind of, kind of, you know , worse and worse meaning , uh , to find, find talent that , that the organizations that will listen to this podcast are looking for there's a scarcity. And, and there are , there are, there are ebbs and flows where supply and demand are either in equilibrium or one is greater or lesser than the other, but primarily today. And the last two years , uh, during the pandemic, we've seen just a huge increase in organizations looking to us to help them find the next generation of leaders, succession planning, a new kind of leader for their organization, given the world that we're in today, that that just seems to be changing faster and faster and all those are cliches. Okay. All those are things that you could hear on any other podcasts. I think the thing that makes it unique for us is that our industry tends to fly under the radar screen. It isn't in, you know, the airport banners that you, you know, as you're , as you're traveling, when we used to travel , uh , it's not on the channel 10 news. And so the fact that it's, it's impacted our industry's sort of cradle the grave the way it has over the past few years in particularly the last two, I think is, is a little bit surprising for us. And , um, and we've, we've got some challenges because our , our workforce in the ag food value chain is an aging workforce workforce, more so than , than, than even other industries. And so with the departure of folks that are deciding to, you know, hang their spurs up and go do something else or retire , um, there really is a gap. There's a leadership gap and a, and just a people gap , uh , folks under those individuals that need to be filled. And it's, it's tough to fill them.

Phil:

So, David, you know, when, when I look at , uh , food and ag and I've been in food my entire life, my grandfather's a dairy farmer and my father is a food manufacturer. Um, how do we compete to get that top talent with folks like Google and Microsoft? I mean, the , the sexier, I hate to use that word, but the sexier businesses that offer , um, maybe a little bit more money or maybe a lot more money, a little bit more excitement, you know, how do we, how do we compete?

David:

I love that question. And there , uh, we, we will not compete on being sexier. That's not my belief. I just , I just don't think that that is , uh , uh , the nature of , of our collective industries. And there's really multiple industries within this major ag value chain. Um, I think the secret is purpose. And I think the pandemic has given us a little bit of a gift. Uh, you know, it's lemonade out of lemons and I hear more and more with , um, either individuals departing their current employee employment , uh, or , or those that are looking for new employment and this notion of purpose that we all, you know, we go to MBA school or, and , and you hear about it's important to have purpose and , and it is, but kind of everyone has purpose. And so what's interesting about our, our industries is, you know , Kincannon & Reed , uh, serves industries that feed the world and make it healthy. That is a noble purpose. Yes. That kind of trumps , uh , video games and entertainment and a bunch of other stuff that is super fun. And to your point, super exciting. But I'm finding in, particularly with my kids, the generation below me, there , their desire for being connected to something with purpose is , is greater than perhaps mine was. And I think that that's a , that's a , uh , an avenue that we can use more and more now how we use it. That's a good question. You know, do you use it with traditional advertising? Do you use it? I mean, I think, I think you kind of have to use it throughout the whole process, but , um, I'm telling my clients today when talent is so scarce , uh, play the purpose card, particularly with younger generations, but increasingly with older look, all of us during the pandemic, I imagine failure in the same boat have had to take a hard look in the mirror and say, you know , am I doing what I want to do? What's important to me, you know, when I can't travel, when I can't spend time with my family, et cetera, I think we're seeing a bit of an Exodus out of, out of our industry to , uh , folks that maybe have connected with the purpose of their current ag and food organizations, but have decided to either retire early because they want to run a bike shop. You know, they want less stress in their life, or they, you know, they're giving up, you know, huge incomes to do something that's simpler and closer to home. And those are things that we're going to have to work with ourselves. So we've got some challenges and some opportunities, I think, to attract that talent.

Phil:

I want to go back to something that you said , um, when we look at millennials and generation Z, we've talked for years about how food involved they are , um, that they really care about where their food comes from. They care about recipes more and so on. So, you know, gleaning from what you just said, do we have, you know, future generations who are much more involved in food than perhaps you and I were when we were kids. And as a result, we're going to have, you know, better leaders when it comes to food and agriculture, because it's in their DNA. Yeah .

David:

It's a great question. I think, I think the way these generations are involved in food today are different than the way we were involved in food. So you mentioned your father had a dairy background and you know , my dad grew up on a bit of a farm in, in , you know , near Jackson hole, Wyoming. I'm a city boy. I grew up in Phoenix. Okay. So even from me to , to my, to the next generation, you know, we, we, we, I think that there's going to be, and there has been an influx of talent from these new generations that aren't from the farm and, and their involvement with food is different. So they haven't necessarily grown it. They haven't necessarily their hands in the dirt or milk the cows or whatever, but they are keenly aware of are , want to be aware of where it comes from, how it's produced , um, what kind of impact it has on the environment , um, how it should be sold , uh, if they're aware of, of food deserts in our cities, because they're from the city. So it , th th I think I would say Phil , it's just a different kind of connection with the food ag value chain than you and I have experienced perhaps a , those of us that are in the older, older generation. And therefore it's going to look different, the complexion of these organizations and where some of them are located for jobs are located and what jobs look like, I think will change. And that's a good thing. Look, if there's anything that I know about the actual value chain is we are resilient. I mean, when the pandemic hit, we knew from an executive search perspective that we would have a decline in business and that our organizations that we served would be hitting pause for awhile because they needed to. But look, if, and I don't want to downplay the pandemic pandemic is, is a unique once in a lifetime deal. But look, if it's not UPenn day, hopefully it's not a pandemic. It's a trade war with China. If it's not a trade war with China, it's a drought in Brazil. And if it's not a drought in Brazil, it's a farmers on strike in, in France. Look , the ag food value chain knows how to deal with crisis, knows how to look at things. Long-term knows how to place their bets wisely and have a tremendous amount of trust and respect for the people that we serve. And, and you know, where I come from,

Phil:

I want to build on something that you said , um, which, which had a light bulb go off in my head, what I've seen over the past, probably two or three years in particular with Albertsons and Kroger. Um , what they've done for senior leadership is they've gone outside the grocery world. Yeah . So typically, you know, the old story was, the CEO started out as a bagger, went up the line. And so on. Now these retailers, these food retailers are stealing people away from Google and Microsoft and Walmart, also doing the same thing. Um, and what it's doing is it's giving these retailers a whole different lens on how to do business, just to your point of, of having this new generation that might not have grown up on a farm, but has all these other attributes and all these other thought processes that could well make farming and ranching much better than we even imagined that it's not a fifth or sixth generation farmer who grew up on the farm, but, you know, stealing somebody from, you know , Silicon valley to come in and say, Hey, you know, I'm going to life hack , you know, farming and here's, what's going to happen.

David:

I agree, Phil and frankly, I mean, it is both an and it's not either an or so I still see seven generation farming families throughout the world. And I still see consolidation of farms and , and some other things that are happening there, there is a place I think for both it, it's not one you surfing the other, I think there's a place for both in, in our industries going forward. And, you know, frankly, that's, what's exciting. I mean, I , I , uh , my best friend is in the gaming business and I love him to death, but that kind of stuff to me, you know, as a bit of a flash in the pan, and then, you know , the new game, this stuff has such deep meaning and purpose, and, you know, the excitement of how, how, how we're gonna feed the world for the next 50 and a hundred years with, you know, declining arable land and, and, and , uh, you know, talent challenges and, and, and increase protein by , by major, you know , countries like China, et cetera. So there's just so many challenges that, that, again, our collective industry has proven it can meet the task over and over and over again. And the fun part is how are we going to do it? So, yes, it's stressful , um, for our business. It's, it's , uh , it's great. We , we are, you know, we're brokers of, of talent, so to speak. And when there's imbalances in supply and demand, that's, that's, that's good for us kind of like a commodity trader on, you know, with wheat board. Uh, so we, we see this constant churn and change, and , uh, it's exciting for us to go find those folks from Google represent companies and explain to the Google folks who don't know , you know, who've never set foot on a farm, why this position as to your point, COO of Kroger or something is a great move for them. And, and, and represent organizations like those, you know, the Kroger's , uh , uh, Monsanto's Cargill's whatever to, to bring talent in and , and, and, and help them, you know, transfer those in parlay those skills from, from companies that you wouldn't traditionally think of as being connected to the Agra value chain and get talent that talent infusion. But I should say , um, for every one of those people that we place and see it is an uphill batter battle for them , uh, our, our cultures, which is means a lot of things to a lot of different people are incredibly strong and deeply rooted part of the pun. And so when an individual comes from another industry altogether , um, we really have to take, take good care to make sure that they can come in and , and that they stick, because oftentimes we have a way of repelling somebody that's , doesn't think enact and has been on the farm like us. And yet, if we can embrace that and make the , the, the collective business better, that's, what's going to , going to help us survive. So

Phil:

Let's talk about, you know, the, these people , uh , that , that you recruit for leadership. Um, one of , um, one of the comments that I hear consistently , um, is that in farming and ranching and agriculture in general, we need more diversity. Um, what are you seeing as it relates to cultural diversity to , to build on what you just said? Um, and are we moving that forward?

David:

Well, the answer is, yes, we're moving that forward. You know , uh, we, so Kincannon & Reed has spent a lot of time this past , uh, 18 months , uh , looking at the changes in the world and, and the diversity and inclusion dialogue that has, has amplified. Um, and like other firms, we find ourselves in a unique position in that we are a collective of individuals that focuses on the act for value chain, and we come from very different backgrounds. Um , the active value chain tends to not be the most diverse and inclusive set of industries. If you compare to others , uh, uh, their pockets of, of, of, you know, what I would call traditional diversity and inclusion. And then there are areas that are just super challenging. So if you look at our firm , um, inside , uh, we, we have a lot of gender diversity. We have , uh, other forms of diversity too. At the partner level, though, we tend to be primarily male and white now , uh, peeling the onion back. We've got folks from overseas that speak multiple languages. I mean, I, I lived in Latin America where my skin color was a minority for a number of years, just because , uh, so we've , we've got this unique group of experiences that I've got one partner that I think met his first person of color when he was 21. So I think what you have to do and what I, when, when people come to talk to me about this, first of all, I don't have all the answers. I don't have a perfect metric for anybody. I don't think there's a one size fits all, and that won't shock anybody. I do think that there is a requirement , um, morally and, and , um , and philosophically to do something and to move the dial forward in your own way. We've done some trainings internally on unconscious bias, diversity and inclusion. Uh, we've done global trainings with our company where we're 70 people globally. Um, did that via zoom. Uh, we've also , uh, um , talk about this on, on, on a regular basis in our, in our calls. And there's a , there's an open line. If somebody has a question on diversity inclusion, they can phone me and talk about it anytime they want. So we don't have it all conquered. I don't think other firms I've talked to do either, but I think they recognize that this is , uh , that again, it's good business. It's also the right thing to do. Um, but it's, it's sticky. It's a difficult conversation , uh, especially when you're a white guy like me and , uh, and, and people look, look sometimes at me and say, well, you're not qualified to talk about this. Well, if, you know, with respect, that that may be sort of true, but I think if we can't all be talking about this, then we really lose , uh , opportunity for real change. So I don't know if that answers your question, Phil or helps a bit, but those are some of the thoughts that I have on, on diversity and inclusion.

Phil:

No, I think that's great. Um, if , if you were to look into your crystal ball , um, what are, what are the challenges that you see moving forward in attracting and retaining , uh , senior leaders and executives for food ag ?

David:

So I wrote down a few of these because these are, I don't think these will be a surprise, but I do think that they're important to talk about location and relocation, relocation, period, full stop. Today is a challenge for dual income families. Particularly if you're looking to hire from a diversity and inclusion perspective, oftentimes if you're hiring a , um, um, uh, one of the spouses, if you're looking to hire a female, for example , um, she's got a breadwinning spouse , uh, that is connected to that local community. And so anytime you're going to get to make a change , uh, where you've got dual income families, that the location or relocation is super important, and that won't be a shocker to that , to the listeners here, but this is not only not going away, but with the crystal ball, that's super cloudy in my mind about what the nature of work looks like for the next five years. Now that the pandemic is hit, you got half the population that feels like they can do what they've been doing at home, and they don't have to go into any office. And 40% of that population will do it for less money. Okay. That, that is, that is something categorically new for us. And I think we, those firms that are quick to recognize that location and relocation, that they can be open and malleable to, to make that work, they're going to be able to attract better talent than other, other companies that, that can't and look, some jobs just cannot be remote for example, or they require a relocation, but the cat's a little bit out of the bag with some folks that have been able to perform pretty well in this new setup . Um, there's all other category of , of worker that can't wait to get back to the office. And so , um, I wish I could tell you how this is going to play out. What I do know is that five years from now, we will be different. Okay. The nature of work will be different. And , and once again, those organizations that are able to look at things creatively and faster than others are going to be able to attract that talent sooner. So that's something that pops into mind. Um, we've got to attract talent away from other industries. And again, I think there's a unique opportunity with this purpose card to play that we can actually get people coming out of, of, of, you know , major institutions and, and, and even other firms to say, I'm going to pick, you know, ag and food over, you know, finance or technology. Um, uh, and , and I think if we do that, right, we're going to get an infusion of talent that will again, change our industry. Um, and diversity and inclusion we mentioned earlier, what does that mean? You know, why does it matter? What's the business impact? I think the closest, the closest that you can, you can sort of identify if the diversity inclusion discussions with a real tangible business impact, then that becomes, it becomes an easier way to talk about a tough problem, right? When you're talking about PNL, you're talking about market share, and you're talking about better ideas and things like that because of diversity inclusion. Well, then that's a lot easier conversation than to talk about race or gender ethnicity or whatever. So I think those are some of the things that we have to tackle going forward. And once again, I'm, I'm really optimistic that we , that we can do it.

Phil:

So I'm fascinated when I hear you talk about the fact that 40% of the workforce , um, you know, money, isn't that important where I would think that in, in your firm , um, you know, pre pandemic, it was about the money. So you're going to offer me a job and I'm going to negotiate to get the most money that I can. Um, and you're going to , you know, try to balance that out between your clients and getting me to go to work for them. Uh, but, but it's different now. So it's more of this, you know, life and workforce balance that says that, you know, I care about my family. I want to be home more. I don't necessarily have to be in the office. I can, you know, do a lot of what I do. I'm on zoom. So I'm just imagining that, you know, your business has changed like this , um , away from just the money aspect of it to really be much more holistic and taking a much more holistic of these executives they , that you want to recruit.

David:

Yeah. So a couple of clarification's the statistics that quoted or wall street journal statistics that either about six or eight months old and they are cross industry , so they're not unique to , um, to the active value chain. So , um, but it's pretty good proxy. Uh, I would say, so first of all, we are client backwards, not candidate forwards. What does that mean? We work for clients that are looking for talent and we represent them and we get paid by them. We don't get paid by the candidates, right . And so when we are in a situation where we're helping to negotiate , um, uh , a package, a compensation package, we, we represent the client. Okay. At the same time we guarantee our work and we, we, we sort of provide a bridge between the two parties. Um, I would say that the candidates that we've worked with in my nine years , uh, certainly still care about money. I think that that has changed over the course of nine years. In the last two years, they still care about money, for sure, but it's this, again, this purpose, this work-life balance, this location relocation , um, it's risk has taken on a whole different Panorama. And so yes, negotiating and helping our clients negotiate with, with superior talent at the end is not just about money. Um, we tell our clients today, though. Okay. Um, if you're looking for superior talent today, it's going to take you 20% longer to find them, okay. Even with us helping you, you're probably going to pay 30% more than you think you're going to pay, and you need to make decisions 50% faster , uh , 20, 30, 50 , uh, why? Because the superior talent has three offers, and it's not just about money, but it's fact that they have three and one of them might be that they could stay at home and make pretty good money. And that's really what they want to do. So, so , uh, that may not always be the case. Uh, it probably won't be, we've seen, you know, talent supply and demand disparities that they change all the time. They're very dynamic, but in today's market that 20, 30, 50 is a pretty good rule. We tell our clients, go through whatever due diligence process you need to, and with us on, on people walking in the door, people you want to place , you just got to do it 50% faster.

Phil:

And, and when, when I imagine , um, you know, a lot of the food and ag companies that you deal with that are, you know, these mandalas , uh, for you to say, Hey, you know, you got , gotta move faster. You know, you probably have some of them just saying, whoa, you know, we've got the system in place and we've got to go through all these things and you're asking us to change. So, you know, on one hand, certainly the people that you're recruiting are looking differently, but you've got to manage how these companies who want to recruit , um, have to change as well. So, you know, it's, it's different than it was, you know, just a few years.

David:

It is. And I wish I could tell you, we were perfect at it. We are the look . I mean, I'm proud to say that we've been around 40 years and , and we really know what we're doing. And, and, and we are, you know, we feel like we're the best at what we do. Uh, um, you know, with all humility at the same time. Yeah. People pay us a lot of money to do this. And, you know, you think about, you think about the individual walking in the door at , in a C-suite position , uh, with one or two decisions, they can make a company, a half, a million dollars in savings, you know? Um , and so now multiply that over time and, you know, really feel , uh, we're in the business of solving business problems. You know, companies are what they really are saying when they come to us is I've got market share issues. I have leadership issues, you know, I'm not, not selling enough in this space. I need to launch a new, a new product line, et cetera. I'm going to solve these problems with the placement, with an individual. Right. But that individual has got to , got to take care of all these problems. And so, you know, when you think about it from that perspective , um, we're, we're just honored and pleased to work with the folks that we do and our impact talk about purpose, right? I mean, we look at our purpose and we, we can see the leadership that we've placed in these companies growing and expanding. And sometimes they make mistakes. Of course, that's just the nature of the game, but I mean, the impact that , that we , we sort of have by facilitating this is , uh , we're really super proud of. So,

Phil:

So , uh , David, I guess my only regret now that I'm hearing your insights and your intelligence on this is that, you know, frankly, that I just didn't graduate school and have your phone number and call you and you might've changed.

David:

There's still time fill . So you , you , you got a few years left, did you ? So you never know.

Phil:

Yeah . Well, David, thank you for joining us today on Farm Food Facts, sharing your insights and giving us a glimpse into probably the most challenging aspect that we face, whether it's at retail on the farm food service , uh, we hear it in the headlines every single day. Um, and because of people like you, we're going to be able to solve the problems. So thank you so much.

David:

My pleasure. Thank you very much for inviting me. All the best

Phil:

US Farmers and Ranchers inaction would like to recognize the sponsors of the 2021 Honor The Harvest forum. Our Sapphire sponsors, Ernst and young, and the United soybean board. Our platinum sponsors the innovation center for US Dairy, Native American Agriculture Fund and Kincannon & Reed. Our silver sponsors Dairy West, Nebraska Soy, Cortez Agriscience, McDonald's, Cargill and PepsiCo. Our bronze sponsors, CoBank, Nutrien and Pollination. And our copper sponsors the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, Culver's, The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research and Hy-Vee Supermarkets. For more about all food and agriculture, please visit usfarmersandranchers.org. Also be sure to visit us on Facebook and Instagram @farmersandranchers as well as on Twitter and LinkedIn @USFRA. Until next time.