( Photo courtesy Produce Marketing Association )

Finding and retaining good talent matters to the fresh produce and floral industry now more than ever. 

Workplace demographics are shifting dramatically. Pew Research Center reports 10,000 baby boomers turning 65 every day, and by 2025, your workforce will be 75% millennials. 

Yet odds are your boomer-centric benefits programs don’t appeal to millennials’ very different values and work styles. So, we shouldn’t be surprised that Forbes reports 90% of college-educated millennials plan to leave their employers within three years. 

Specific to our industry, unless today’s new talent grew up in agriculture, they don’t think to look here for careers. And students studying the skills we need like engineering, information technology, finance or other high demand skills, have little, if any exposure to the industry. 

Human resources are more important than ever — yet many companies today operate at the most basic HR level. To compete moving forward, we need to put fundamentals in place to make people of all generations feel valued, eager to engage and work harder to advance your business. 

That means giving HR leaders a voice at the table to move from transactional to transformational HR — aligning people, systems and functions to support the C-suite’s vision.

Boston Consulting Group’s Global Leadership and Talent Index demonstrates the ROI of getting HR right. The group surveyed 1,263 executives from a range of companies across 85 countries, and sorted them into six levels of leadership and talent performance. 

Businesses with strong HR capabilities — talent magnets — consistently outperformed those with weaker capabilities — talent laggards. At each successive level, profits rose by an average of 5% to 15%.

There are so many aspects to strategic HR that it’s hard to know where to start. But as research by the father of strategic HR, David Ulrich, demonstrates, “the only competitive weapon left is organization.” 

Winning, he believes, will spring from speed, responsiveness, agility, learning capacity and employee competence — requiring an entirely different approach to “people” strategies. 

Awareness is the first step toward any change, so begin by assessing your company’s HR capabilities. 

Center for Growing Talent has just unveiled an industry-specific assessment tool, HRvest. This online tool can help you assess and benchmark your company’s HR maturity against a model of excellence, and against aggregated, anonymous data about like companies within our industry. 

HRvest was developed for the center by the HR experts at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and has been test driven by volunteer leaders from across the supply chain. 

If your produce or floral company wants to keep your current employee bench strength and compete for top new talent, then you must implement competitive people practices and give HR a strategic voice. Your future literally depends upon it.

Margi Prueitt is executive director of Center for Growing Talent and senior vice president of the Produce Marketing Association.