Canadian Poultry Magazine

Building Bridges: Focus on people

By Crystal Mackay   

Features Emerging Trends

One of the most important threats facing the poultry sector is human resources.

One of the most important threats facing the poultry sector is human resources. Photo from Adobestock/By chayakorn

Have you ever asked anyone, “What is your favourite part of your job?” I can guarantee you will hear a very common answer, particularly in agriculture, “The people.” At the same time, one of the most important threats facing the poultry sector is human resources. If people are our greatest strength and our greatest weakness, it’s time to build some bridges.   

My previous articles in this series explained how we build bridges to help us get over obstacles and serve as a means of connection when it comes to earning trust and connecting with consumers.  Ask anyone about their experiences hiring new staff recently and they will most likely describe some obstacles.  While the agri-food sector prides itself on innovation, investing in new technology, equipment and research, how much do we invest in humans? 

Here’s an example. Organization ABC hires a new person. They welcome them to the team with business cards, maybe a golf shirt and a hat with their logo on it. Perhaps the keys to a company vehicle, which could be an $80,000 truck or access to pieces of equipment worth five times that amount. 

But what does onboarding, mentoring and training look like? What’s the business value put on people in real dollars, time and energy? Beyond recruiting new hires, keeping and engaging existing employees has never been more important. 

In McKinsey’s 2022 Great Attrition, Great Attraction 2.0 global survey, the top reason people gave for quitting their job was lack of career development and advancement. This topped the reason many might predict of inadequate compensation. 

The third reason was uncaring and uninspiring leaders, followed by lack of meaningful work. 

These results fit well with some other studies and theories about what people want in 2022 and moving forward, particularly young people. We want to feel valued, and part of a team that works towards a common goal that makes a difference. 

So, what can you do? At a time when many are so busy with tasks and trouble shooting, it takes a strategic effort to make training and engagement a priority. For example, invest in creating a positive work culture where ideas are encouraged and saying thanks is a regular occurrence. Team building, fun events and rewards can go a long way towards this goal. For example, think of a charitable cause your team can help with locally that will help build morale and make a difference at the same time.  

Everyone should map out their personal and professional goals and plans, with training and development budget to support them. This can be formal courses or programs, coaching, in-house training or mentoring. 

Check out the online training programs on utensil.ca for a simple and affordable option to get started. 

Attending industry events to build their networks is another area that hasn’t been given enough value. The experienced people in our industry know this best – agriculture is a people business, and you can’t build relationships with e-mails or texts. Coming through the past few years with travel and events at a minimum, this aspect of professional development and networks needs to be given priority.    

According to a report by the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council, approximately 37 per cent of the workforce on Canadian farms is expected to retire by 2029. They also shared in 2019 that nearly half of employers report struggles filling their labour needs. Those numbers are staggering and continue to escalate. 

We need to invest in our skills, such as leadership, human resources, communications, and sales and marketing.  But we also need to have some fun, say thanks for good work, and help energize our teams and ourselves for the year ahead. This is important for the new hires we welcome to our teams, those who have been working hard for and with you, and for you. 

Loft32’s the Grow Our People Summit ‘unconference experience’ is coming to Niagara Falls this November 2-4. Find out more and register at loft32.ca/growourpeople. 


Crystal Mackay is the CEO of Loft32, a company she co-founded with the goal to help elevate people, businesses and the conversations on food and farming. Her latest work includes an online training platform, www.utensil.ca with on-demand training programs and resources.


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