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Roundtable Roundup:
Key Takeaways from the 2016 Conference


Two weeks ago, two-hundred HR professionals, collegiate staff, and association representatives met to network, discuss and learn about hot topics in the agricultural industry. The 2016 Ag & Food HR Roundtable was held August 2-4. DuPont Ag & Nutrition hosted this 14th annual event in Des Moines, Iowa. Participants discovered valuable takeaways to implement in HR and collegiate programs, in addition to being energized by the exciting future of agriculture and the many compelling career opportunities that were shared.


The event kicked off with keynote speaker David Okerlund on Obtaining Altitude through Attitude: Dealing with the Challenges in Agriculture. Okerlund humorously led participants through his journey and said that “changes are external, while transitions are internal.”  Next Michael Patrick from DuPont discussed the Dynamics Influencing Human Capital in Today’s Work Landscape. Patrick noted that the skill sets for traditional ag jobs are changing and the industry offers a diverse range of specialty roles that at first glance might not appear to be ag-related. Participants then had a chance to network at the welcome reception.


Wednesday morning started early at the optional table topics breakfast where attendees discussed HR topics directly with peers. The day’s conference schedule started with a presentation on Creating a Compelling Story for Working in Agriculture by Mike Pearson from Market to Market. Pearson said that globalization is agriculture’s defining force and we need to show students what modern agriculture involves. HR professionals then heard from Kara Yarnot of Meritage Talent Solutions about Talent Acquisition Technologies. Kara provided insight on simplifying the chaos when it comes to technologies such as video interviews, online reference checks, re-targeting and more. Meanwhile, collegiate staff learned about Dissecting the Job Offer from Robert Meade of Agriland FS.


After lunch, all participants heard from a panel asking Have Employability Skills Changed in the Last 5 Years? This interactive session looked at research from five years ago and allowed participants to input their current thoughts on employability in a real-time survey. Employers indicated they really wanted to see communication skills, professionalism, and teamwork from college graduates.


Attendees then chose from three concurrent sessions:  creating an effective employee referral program, finding balance in an ever-connected work world, or a students’ perspective on starting their first job. Everyone was treated to cocktails and dinner at the beautiful and historic World Food Prize Hall of Laureates that evening.


The final day began with an optional breakfast for like industry sectors to discuss best practices. The last official day of the conference started with a panel about how Diversity Recruitment Begins with Youth. There were so many great soundbites to share from this dialogue, but the panel talked about the diversity of opportunities, ways to start educating youth about ag, and changing the narrative of agriculture.


Attendees then picked from three concurrent sessions:  big data and talent acquisition, creating successful development programs, or the ever-popular university beg, borrow and share session.


The conference also featured an optional Diversity Recruitment & Inclusion add-on workshop with topics covering what diversity recruitment means, challenges and resolutions and a panel of diverse talent. Presenters and participants emphasized the importance of inclusion programs as the major factor influencing retention and the ability to recruit additional diverse talent.


Thank you to the conference host, DuPont Ag & Nutrition. Participants were also invited to attend one of the two optional tours of the DuPont facilities. Also thanks to our sponsors, ADM, BASF, Bayer CropScience, Bunge, Cargill, CHS, Cobb-Vantress, Culver’s, National FFA Organization, Valent, and Wilbur-Ellis.


If you were unable to make it to this year’s roundtable, you can catch up with the discussion on Twitter at #AgRT or join the Ag & Food HR Roundtable LinkedIn group. Mark your calendar to join us August 1-3, 2017 for the next Roundtable at a location to be announced soon!