Outstanding in the field podcast


Listen in as host Mike Terning and Mark Waschek, Vice President of Agronomy at Ag1Source, discuss recruiting challenges the grain industry has faced as a result of the global pandemic.

What you will learn in this episode:

  1. The overarching impact of COVID-19 on recruiting
  2. How Ag1Source has shifted its priorities to drive business
  3. Tips to meet current industry challenges
  4. How companies have pivoted to embrace web-based meetings during the interview process

Relevant links:

  1. https://www.linkedin.com/in/markwaschek/
  2. https://www.ag1source.com
  3. https://www.ag1source.com/video-interviewing-resources/

Listen to the podcast:

Click HERE


Mike:   Welcome to another episode of Outstanding in the Field, a podcast by Greenstone Systems. Today I am pleased to have a guest with me. His name is Mark Waschek. Mark, can you please introduce yourself to our listening audience?

Mark:   Sure Mike, thanks. I am Mark Waschek. I’m with Ag1Source. We are an executive recruiting organization and really talent management consulting on the side that focuses strictly on agriculture industries. Really I spend my time in agronomy, grain crop production and the food industry myself. So I’ve been a recruiter for about 15 years. Prior to that, I spent my entire career within the Cenex Land O Lakes, Agriliance, and CHS organizations doing everything from agronomy sales to location management on up to corporate roles in fertilizer and agronomy services. Finally when I left, I was in the petroleum division.

Mike:   Great. Well we were just chatting a little bit and our paths crossed for a little while when I was at CHS in the late 90s/early 2000’s. So yeah. We were probably in some of the same meetings, as we mentioned.

Mark:   Definitely.

Mike:   We were never formally introduced.

Mark:   I think as we said there, we thought how crazy could things get? We didn’t know 2020 was coming.

Mike:   Yeah, that’s right. Yep. Interesting year. All right. So you informed me that you grew up west of Minneapolis in Carver County in Watertown. Any formidable experiences growing up that kind of pushed you towards agriculture?

Mark:   Sure. So I lived on a hobby farm. We didn’t actually farm. We rented out our ground. Obviously, I actually grew up in Hollywood, Minnesota. That’s like way more fun to tell people that I grew up in Hollywood and have their mind wonder, but actually I grew up in Hollywood, Minnesota. So all of my friends, all of our neighbors all farmers. All of my teenage income came from baling hay, milking cows, whatever it may be. So I was personally engrained in agriculture. I knew I wanted to be part of it. So 4H when I was younger and then I added FFA in high school. Very active in FFA. I was chapter officer, district officer, regional officer, all of those types of activities. When I got to be a senior in high school, I was honestly looking at different paths. My FFA advisor said well I know you’re looking at St. Thomas and you’re looking at all these other business schools, but by the way I think you only really have one thing you can do. That’s go to the University of Minnesota for ag business. I said well, that sounds okay. So that is really what started me on my path. Admittedly I didn’t know enough about the industry as a whole. My only perspective of agriculture was farming. So once I got into college at the University of Minnesota, that’s really what opened my eyes to grain marketing and agronomy and crop inputs and all those types of things. So like many kids, I went into ag business, which was probably one of the largest non-technical degrees at the University of Minnesota at that time.

I quickly realized that ag business required a tremendous amount of accounting classes, but ag econ did not. So I shifted to ag econ and I realized that sales, marketing, grain merchandising, all of those types of things really intrigued me. It wasn’t until I got to the very end of my senior year that because I had a couple internships with actually crop protection companies at that time that opened my eyes to the crop inputs world that I was given an opportunity to join Cenex Land O Lakes, and I hadn’t looked back on that whole process.

Mike:   Well, that’s great. Yeah, I have heard of Hollywood, Minnesota because that was one of the first bowling alleys I ever went to that had automatic scoring.

Mark:   Funny you mention that. That is how I paid for two or three years of my college was every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday—Because in Minnesota you only need to be 18 to be a bartender. You could go to the Hollywood sports complex any weekend and you would have 18 year old bartenders there running the operation. I was one of them back then. So yeah.

Mike:   Wow, interesting. So you went to the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota. Were you in any fraternities there?

Mark:   I was in Alpha Gamma Rho.

Mike:   AGR. All right. Well, thanks for that background info. So how did you kind of migrate to becoming a recruiter and working in that world?

Mark:   That’s a great question. A lot of people ask me that question. One thing is fairly certain. Nobody goes to college saying I want to be a recruiter when I grow up. It’s not something that is on the radar screen for most people. It really happens for different reasons. When I look at our own organization, everybody on our team has a reason for why they wanted to become a recruiter. A lot of it is because we just enjoy the relationships and we enjoy helping organizations improve, and we want to be a part of the industry. The decision to actually become an executive recruiter is more personal in a lot of cases. In my case, I was—as we talked earlier—I was in the CHS organization. I was leading a sales team. I was on the verge of—As things were transitioning, I was going to be travelling a lot. I was working with folks that are still part of the organization today, but a lot of times I think back to then. You notice you’re part of that organization as well where a lot of times I would have people come to me and say, “Hey, I need to leave early. I don’t want to miss my daughter’s volleyball game. Or my son has a baseball game.” All those types of things. I realized that I’d say, “No problem. Have your people come to me if they need anything.” I realized I would leave the door at 5:30 or 6:00 and they would still be there. They never left.

I started to think at that point in time I had one child. Today I have three kids. I said that’s not where I want to be. I want to be in a career where I have more flexibility and I can be the dad I want to be. While I was thinking about those things, I had a bit of a health scare which really put my life into perspective at that point. That’s when I realized that there’s a lot more to a career than just being part of a big organization and a big building. At that time I had really good friends who were just starting Ag1Source. After a year of watching their success and watching the business grow, they invited me to part of the organization. So for the rest of our team, it’s very similar stories that they have somewhat of a life changing event that they realize the career path I’m on is good. It’s not a bad one, but I want to do something different. I want to be more in control. I want to have the flexibility like I did. I think back to the days—My kids are all older now, but when they were younger if I wanted to take some time off and go read to a kindergarten class or a preschool class, I could do it without question. If I wanted to surprise my kids at the bus stop when they got home, I could do that. If I was working in a corporate office in a corporate setting, that became very, very difficult. That’s really what launched my career with Ag1Source as week as many of the members of my team.

Mike:   That’s cool. Sometimes it takes some of those situations to help us refocus priorities.

Mark:   Exactly. Exactly.

Mike:   So thanks for sharing that with us. Well, you mentioned 2020 a moment ago. Obviously, lots of challenges with trade within agriculture. Partially in part because of a pandemic, partially political and other reasons. How has that impacted your world and the world of agribusinesses searching for talent?

Mark:   It’s been—Well, we keep saying it’s been interesting, but it really has. So when I think back to March and when things started shutting down—really it all happened in a period of about three or four days where it just happened, right? There was about a one to two week period where everybody said, “Wow, what do we do now?” Even our own organization started scrambling just how do we continue to do business? Not knowing where the business was going, not knowing what to do. A lot of it is how do we keep our employees safe? How do we take care of our clients? How do we do all of that? We had about two weeks to really do that. Once we got things figured out and we really started reengaging with our clients, very quickly we were able to separate our clients into two separate groups where there were some clients that said, “Wow, we don’t know where this is going. We don’t know where the industry is going. We don’t know where the economy is going. We don’t know where our employee’s health is going. We just have to put the brakes on everything. We can’t afford to take any risks here. We don’t know if we can even afford to add people. We don’t know even if we hire people if we can train them. We just have to stop everything.” Right? I will say that was probably 75% of the organizations we worked with hit the pause button.

Mike:   Wow.

Mark:   The other 25% looked around and said, “So let me get this right. 3/4s of our competitors are sticking their head in the ground hoping that this blows over. Meanwhile there’s all these good people out there that might be open to making a change. Bring them to us now. We want to hire them before everybody wakes up.” So we had to shift our priorities from organizations that we have great relationships with that said, “Hey we’re too nervous about this. We don’t want to move forward.” To really putting all of our attention into companies that said, “We have a vision, we have a plan. Yes we’re going to need to make some adjustments in how they go about this, but we cannot let go of the fact that we want to grow our team with the best people. Bring them to us.” That really has driven our business over the last six months is partnering with organizations that realize their vision was good. They need to stick with the vision. They may need to adjust their plan, but you can’t stop hiring talent just because of uncertainty. I think that’s where the organizations that are now realizing, “Well, I guess we do have another sale cycle coming up. We need to get on with that sales plan. We need the revenue.” Now they’re calling me saying, “Mark, who’s available?” Well it’s a lot fewer people today than there was back in April, right, because a lot of the good ones have reprioritized in what they want to do as well.

Mike: That 25% who you described as progressive, visionary, focused on executing their strategy, what size of organization? Were there any size characteristics or other characteristics of those organizations? Or were they all over the board in terms of size?

Mark:    There isn’t size differences, but there is notable cultural differences between one group and the other, right? The organizations that said, “Well, I guess we need to—I’ll use the word pivot. We need to make a big swing in how we do things.” I’ll get into it a little later, but even in how they hire people let alone just going on with business overall. Culturally they are the type of organization that tries new things all the time, that is always a leader in doing new things or trying new things in markets. That was a big chunk of them culturally. A small fraction of that, I will say, is young organizations that may have been in their B round of funding lets say. The A round of funding is what built the initial team and got the product launched. That B round of funding came in pre-COVID, and they need people on the ground because they need revenue. They cannot hit the pause button right? You need people, you need to figure out how to do sales, you need to get things done because you need cash flow to get that company operating. So that’s the one caveat. Even though I will say  that culturally speaking, companies in a B and C round of funding today are very similar to several large companies that we work with that said, “Hey, this is our opportunity to get the right people at the right time as opposed to just waiting for when there’s an opening. So Mark, just let us know when there’s somebody in our market that we need to see.” They got it done.

Mike:   Well very interesting. So basically it’s sort of the way they behave all of the time.

Mark:   Exactly.

Mike:   So they see the risks and seek to capitalize on them and maximize those opportunities.

Mark:   Exactly, exactly. A lot of it is just the theory that this will be over by July or this will be over by October. Let’s not totally revamp everything. Even down to just something simple as hiring and interviewing, right? Some states, some counties, some cities you physically couldn’t do a face to face interview, right? The concept of doing what you and I are doing today—a web based meeting—was nothing they wanted to do, let alone the theory of how can we possibly hire somebody we’ve never met before? Right? Well, again, that 25% said you know what? If we are doing video interviews, we can now involve even more people faster in the interview process, right. In the old days of interviewing back in 2019 when it used to be face to face, you would meet with person A. They’d say, “You know what? I like you. I’m going to move you on to person B. You have to wait a week to get that scheduled.” Then B likes you and then you wait another week to meet with person C, right? In the era of video interviewing, you can have three or four interviews in less than 24 to 48 hours. You move through that process very quickly, yet it’s still more thorough because you’re meeting with more people in a shorter amount of time. So organizations realize that we aren’t letting go of the theory of hire slow, fire fast. We are able to move quicker, but we’re involving more people. There’s more eyes and ears on this individual.

Mike:   Do you think what you just described will be an ongoing trend post-COVID?

Mark:   No doubt. I think that these organizations are realizing that aside from the efficiency of time, especially at leadership levels, right? If you have a senior C level person interviewing a VP level person, for example, getting schedules to align takes more than days. It’s weeks and sometimes months before you can make some of those things happen. That really delays business and it delays strategy and a lot is held up by that. So they’re realizing the value in the efficiency. Also, in the ag industry no doubt margins are tight. If you are the type of organization that is compensating your interviewees, video interviews cost nothing. As opposed to travel to rural markets that involve a lot of mileage, meals, and hotels in some cases two, three, four times until you get enough interviews done. That becomes very, very costly. At the end of it, you might end up with a sorry I’m not interested nothing whereas in this case just a lot more efficiency and effectiveness.

Mike:   Wow. So did you have any measurements that showed how this online process collapsed the time from posting to onboarding?

Mark:   It is an everchanging thing right now. So I will say early on what I just described was my impression of how it was going to start, but actually the net result was the interview time actually lengthened because as people realized the efficiency of scheduling that’s when they were realizing they could involve more people. So like I said, this first phase of interviews actually probably end up taking you a little bit longer because rather than having three people in the room to meet the candidate, they stretched it out over a week and a half of doing these video interviews with more people. So the net result was very positive. Now that we’re six months into this, a lot of organizations have their systems down. They have their handoffs down. Things are becoming quite a bit more efficient. In fact, we have made several placements in this last quarter. Probably most of our placements have been with organizations that have hired candidates without ever meeting them face to face.

Mike:   Well very interesting times. It’s good to see how things have adopted to the new ways of thinking and interviewing and vetting.

Mark:   Exactly.

Mike:   You’re kind of thinking well you can’t fully vet them unless you see them, but what you’re saying get more people involved and there’s more vetting.

Mark:   Exactly, exactly.

Mike:   So what has been the response for some of the candidates that have gone through this new process?

Mark:   The candidates love it other than the traditional candidates that really—Especially in retail settings and other organizations that are office based, you still want to get a feeling for what…You can get a feeling for the culture by talking to people, that’s okay, but you really want to see the facility, see the operations. So there is a segment of that where that still has to continue to happen, but when you think about how recruiting has shifted in the last six months, because of the pandemic and because more people are working remotely than ever before. It has allowed everybody to spend more time reflecting on what’s really important to them. I know we talked a little bit earlier about my career and my decision, right? I had a couple of things happen in my life. Well, the impact of COVID pretty much has every American thinking about what they want to do. You now have families that for the first time ever in their family, they have had four to five straight months of eating supper together. They may have never had that in a pre-COVID world. You start reflecting on do I want to find a career that allows me to do that more? Am I truly happy in the role that I was in and I really enjoy this home office environment. So the candidates are able to, in this environment, reflect more and be more responsive to the right opportunities as they come along.

To your question on the interviewing process, what’s so nice about it is it does not impact them professionally or personally. Whereas before if I had a candidate in Fargo that wanted to interview in Bismarck, they would have to take an entire day off of work. Vacation day off aside. Why are you taking a Wednesday off? Why aren’t you taking a Friday off? What’s going on? Why are you taking a day off in the middle of the week? That doesn’t happen anymore, right? You can literally go out to your car and sit in the parking lot and do a Zoom call from your cellphone and do just fine. So that has really opened up the flexibility to people really thinking I didn’t want to upset the apple cart. It’s not that I don’t like what I do, but I do want to explore. Those types of people were very hesitant in the past to think about a career change, but now we have video interviewing and organizations are more open to doing video interviews it really opens up the talent pool as well as the career opportunities on the candidate side of things. So it’s a good thing on both sides.

Mike:   Yeah. Well, that’s very interesting. So how would you describe as a typical profile of someone looking for a career change changed or sort of transformed during this period or is it kind of still the same characteristics of those who are hunting for their next career move?

Mark:   I would say that it’s getting more back to normal. Let me put it that way. So what I mean by that is for those of us who were in our careers in 9/11 and you think about how everybody at that time reflected on their careers and they reflected on patriotism and what’s really important in our lives. Was I doing that important on that day? We had a lot of that in the month of April. I go back to families spending more time together than they probably care to in some cases. When you have homeschool kids with two parents working all in the same house at the same time drawing on the same Wi-Fi router, tensions get high. Let’s be honest. That’s a reality, but when you step back and look at wow we just spent five or six months together. Even though we had to cancel our spring break and we couldn’t go on this summer vacation, we’ve spent more time together than ever and this is great. That starts to effect how you look for careers and the types of careers you look into. What I’m getting with that is I am seeing a lot more career driven I need to leave this company type of approach in the talent pool than I have in the past. Now don’t get me wrong. There are leaders that want to be leaders out there, but the desire for mid management people and even entry level sales people coming in and saying, “I don’t care how much time I have to spend away from my family. I’m going to do what it takes. My family’s going to move with me for my career.”  All of those types of things, that is a lot smaller pool today than it was in February. Now it may come back again. I’m already seeing some of that. I think people are—I go back to this opportunity to reflect more on what’s important reprioritize is effecting people’s decisions in how they approach their careers. I think that’s especially impactful with a lot of the folks that listen to this that are in ag retail and the grain industry where there are some long hard hours seasonally in this industry as a whole. That’s always been a challenge. The thought of spending even more time away from family to grow your career in one of these industries is going to be in the back of your candidates minds, and you need to think about how you’re going to address that.

Mike:   Well that’s good to hear. In a way, it’s caused everybody to reflect more and choose what’s important to them. Do you have any sort of typical profile of candidates that you work with or characteristics there?

Mark:   I would say nothing typical because the way our organization is structured, we work with everything from entry level—which entry level to us is people that touch the grower at the farm gate, whether it’s agronomy or livestock or equipment—on up to CEO. So because of that, makes us a little bit unique. Even though we are executive recruiters and I spend the bulk of my time doing more management and senior management goals. We have a constant pipeline of knowing who the next diamond in the rough is. So that gives us a unique perspective top to bottom whether it’s a sales person going to sales manager or a location supervisor going to location manager. Those types of folks, that’s really the foundation of our organization. We’re able to work with people honestly all throughout their careers both on the client’s side, the organization side, as well as candidates.

Mike:   Okay. Why do employer companies choose to work with companies like yours?

Mark:   That’s a great question. I will tell you most companies that reach out to us call us when it’s too late. So a lot of people think of recruiting organizations as who you call when you can’t find anymore. Most of our clients—and I mentioned the 25% that said I don’t care about the pandemic. We have a vision. We have to go on with business. We’re going to take advantage of that. Most of the organizations that we partner with are truly partners in that we are their talent management resource. We don’t necessarily recruit for all of their positions, but I understand their vision. I know where they’re going. I know what markets have been a challenge for them. I know what their retirement plans are for people. In some cases, I literally sit in the board room with them so when they unveil their five year plan because they want me to be their eyes and ears in the marketplace. Even though I know they don’t have an open position in southern Iowa today for a territory or even though I know they don’t need a location manager in South Dakota today, I know that there is going to be a need some time for them in those markets in the next six to twelve months. If I feel the right person is open to making a change today, I want them to be aware of it. I can bring those to them, which is the other challenge for a lot of organizations that only call recruiters when they have an opening. They only have the ability to onboard candidates if there is an opening, right. The organizations that are getting the best talent today are willing to hire a person whether or not they have an opening, know they’re going to add to their talent pool, and they will figure out what position they can start them in knowing that there’s something bigger six to twelve months down the road. They don’t want to miss out on that person. More importantly, they don’t want that person selling against them, right? So they figure out how to get it done. That’s a big part of what we do. Even though we spend a lot of time on the phone finding candidates, an even bigger portion of our time is working with organizations to figure out how some of these top candidates can fit into the organization and what they can do down the road.

Mike:   What sort of mix of time do your colleagues and you spend on the candidate side versus the company side?

Mark:   I would say probably 25% of our time is working with companies and 75% of our time is candidates. That’s probably a fair mix.

Mike:   Okay. All right. What are some of the benefits that candidates experience when they work with a recruiting firm such as Ag1Source?

Mark:   There’s quite a few different things that partnering with a recruiter can do. One is just general market knowledge and career advice. So similar to how a lot of organizations don’t call us until it’s too late, the same thing with candidates. They don’t call us until they can’t take it anymore and need to find a job, or they’ve lost a job, or their company went down the tubes. Whatever it may be. At that point in time, all I can do is tell you about what’s available today. If you need a new job today, well here’s what’s open. I go back to the jobs that are open. If you say, “I see this as the next step in my career,” and I get a real good understanding of what they’ve accomplished, what they want to do next, what their geographical options are, all those types of things. Again, assuming their happy in their role they just know they want to do something different at some point from a career stretch standpoint, they can wait until I bring the ultimate job for them. Without disrupting the marketplace, without having to do too many of those take a day off for an interview things. They can say, “Mark, just tell me when something neat becomes available.” That is a big chunk of my executive candidates who are saying, “I’m happy with what I’m going. I see this as the next step. Let me know when you see something like this coming about.” A lot of it fits into what I was saying before. That all comes together when I start working with organizations and they share their business plan with me for 12 months to five years. As I’m sitting in those meetings, I’m thinking to myself wow. This guy I just talked to two months ago is going to be a good fit for where you want to be. I think we need to have a conversation about when’s the right time to visits with him. A lot of the best opportunities that we fill were jobs that were never posted, actually didn’t even exist right? So that’s the same thing for candidates. If all you do is look at jobs that are open, you are missing 85% of the career opportunities that are out there because the best opportunities out there don’t get posted on a job board.

Mike:   Boy, that is an interesting statistic, right. It’s changed so much, right.

Mark:   Right. No doubt. That’s where organizations need to realize the flipside of that is that when you post a job, you are really only hitting about 15% of the market. Maybe—Well our unemployment’s probably about 5% higher than we like right now. So I’ll give it 20%. When you post a job, the only people that are applying to that job are the people that woke up this morning saying, “I need a job.” Right? That is those who are unemployed or those who are truly, truly, truly unhappy, right? Because that next category down is another 20% people or so which are going—So that first group is highly active. They are doing everything they can to find a new job. They are hitting the job boards. They are scanning the job boards. For anybody who is listening to this that has posted a job, you get a whole bunch of people that are truly looking for any job whether they’re qualified or not. They just need a job, right? That next tier down is people that are unhappy but aren’t waking up every morning saying I need a job today, but I would definitely take a look at one if one landed in my lap. Sometimes every once in a while those folks will hit job boards. Sometimes they’ll get friends saying, “Hey, I saw this job. You should apply.” But they aren’t waking up every day. So even at the most you are getting those two active categories of people who are unhappy or concerned and are waking up looking for a job.

The other 70% of the market doesn’t hit job boards. Those are the people who are happy with their career. At one end of the extreme, we call them passive. The highly passive candidates is that 20% to 25% that is very, very happy. Even if they aren’t happy, they are not going to change jobs either because they are close to retirement and don’t want to mess that up, or they’re living a mile from mom and dad and they aren’t going to move, or they are next in line to take over a role. No matter how things are, those folks are not going to move. They love what they do, or they love where they are. You aren’t going to touch them. So we have this phenomenal 40% in the middle that they are the right candidates for more organizations. They are engaged. They’re in the top of their career. They’re doing well, and their employers don’t want to lose them. They’re treating them very well, but they aren’t looking at job boards. There’s no reason for them to look at a job board. They’re happy. They’re being taken care of. Their employers don’t want to lose them. So you are missing out on that whole segment if all you are doing is posting jobs and advertising on LinkedIn and doing things on social media. We all see them, but if you’re happy in your job you totally ignore them. It isn’t until somebody calls you up about an opportunity you never thought of before that opens your eyes to wow, I didn’t know that job existed, or I didn’t know that company was thinking about this. I’d be interested in talking to them. That’s really the only way you’re going to get to those folks without doing it yourself, calling up people and engaging in a conversation.

Mike:   Well, that’s fascinating. I haven’t heard that stratification before. So very different cohorts. All right, well our time is going fast here Mark. I appreciate all your insights. As we basically wrap things up here today, what tips would you give to candidates and/or agribusinesses who are seeing a need to change?

Mark:   I would say that—Back to how we starred earlier talking about the organizations that are now ahead of their competitors by saying we need to go forward with our plan. We may need to adjust how we execute our plan, but if we want to grow in these markets or we want to make these investments in talent we have to do it. Kind of the buzz word sense that I’ve been saying lately is that organizations need to hire for their vision, not for the pain that their in. A lot of companies, especially in agriculture, have done the opposite. They’re like wow. We don’t want to hire. Bob left a sales territory. Let’s figure out if we can absorb this in the three territories around it. We’ll reduce our headcount. Don’t worry everybody. This is only temporary. We’ll fill this later. Well, a lot of companies did that in 2019 because of the ag economy and the rough year we had throughout the grain and the agronomy industries in particular and livestock as well. We’re now in the second year, and a lot of these companies made the mistake f holding off hiring again because the pandemic. Now you have to say wow. My good employees have been carrying this extra weight on their shoulders for 18 months. How long are we going to keep them? Organizations need to realize that their vision was to actually grow the team and focus on that. It’s so hard. I totally understand. Margins are tight and it’s tough to justify adding headcount when the future is so uncertain, but you have to hire for your vision and not just wait for the pain. If all you do is wait until you absolutely have to hire that person and you go the route of just posting that job, the best candidates for you are gone. You need to be proactive and hire at the right time for that candidate, not just for you.

I would also say that within that, be flexible. I think there’s still no doubt a tremendous amount of uncertainty. We don’t know what 2021 is going to look like at all, but organizations that are adaptable—like I mentioned. The ones that adapted to video interviewing or have adjusted their hiring process, these are the organizations that are going to have the best shot at talent. Not because they’re going to be able to hire faster and more efficiently, but you’re going to impress your candidates a lot more. If you are saying, “Hey, we are excited about the future. We know it’s uncertain, but we’re going to get things done. We want you on the team.” That is a whole lot different candidate experience than an organization that says well, we’re kind of not sure how this is going to work. We’ll get back to you in a couple of weeks for maybe another interview. Candidates are going to see right through that. They’re going to say, “If that is the culture of your organization during a pandemic, I don’t want to be part of it. I’m going to join the team over here that says we will adjust, and we will be successful. So just come on board and let’s get this done.”

Mike:   Okay, excellent. How about any tips for the candidate side of the equation? Tips for 2021.

Mark:   Exactly. I would say the tips for the candidates are almost the same, right? It is to be open and flexible. If you are thinking about a career change or want to learn more about career changes—and I’m not trying to put a plugin for myself, although I could for Ag1Soure—but just in general start networking. Start having conversations. That is the best way to learn about opportunities. You connect with the right people even outside of a recruiter, it may be a sales manager or a regional manager that knows he is going to need to add somebody to his team, and it might be the right time to have a conversation. If you wait until somebody comes to you and posts a job, you are competing with 50 other people as opposed to having that one conversation at the right time with that one individual. So don’t wait until it’s too late is my tip. Just stay engaged and network.

Mike:   Okay. If there would be one primary reason why a person changes careers/employers, what would it be? That’s almost a question—That would be a tip towards the company, towards management.

Mark:   Right. Exactly. That’s an easy one. There’s been lots of research and lots of surveys done. I actually have an entire presentation on this. So that’s why I have the answers so ready. I have done this many times when I have spoken at conferences. It’s usually at managers that are in the room. I ask the crowd to raise your hand if you lost your last employee because a competitor was willing to pay them more. I guarantee that about 90% of the people in the room are going to raise their hand. They lost their last employee because of money. If I go to a different room which is all candidates or employees and I say, “Raise your hand if you changed because of money.” Only 10% of the people are going to raise their hands. The exact number is actually 11%, right? Only 11% of people change roles because of money. Now don’t get me wrong. When they decide to make a career change, they’re going to make a change and they say well I’m not gonna go backwards. I want to go forwards. So yes. When they go into their bosses office to resign, I call it the high school breakup. It’s the “it’s not you, it’s me” speech, right? This was an opportunity. I couldn’t pass it up. They’re giving me a lot of money. Don’t worry. I love you; I love everybody here, right? The reality is it had nothing to do with money. They wanted to leave no matter what and they waited until they found an opportunity that fit them and paid them more money.

The real reason people leave is because of their supervisor. That is 65 or 70% of the reason, actually even more than that. Now some of it is their supervisor directly. That individual style and their approach and the things they have done, but a lot of it is what managers don’t realize is the peripheral things that they have control of and overlook. An employee’s attitudes towards benefits, towards—Especially now where companies are having to pivot their sales plans and maybe having to restructure incentive programs and all of this. As a manager, you have two routes you can take. When those changes come, you can meet with your staff and you can say, “Well these are unprecedented times. We’re all in this together. This is the best we can come up with. So let’s talk about it if you have concerns.” There’s that approach, or there’s the classic, “Gosh, well I don’t know. This is what corporate sent down. I’m sorry folks. Here’s what it is.” Well that attitude trickles down as well. So all of those things step up. I will tell you that even when I am recruiting for candidates, very rarely if ever do I move a candidate forward in the interview process if their primary motivator is money. I need something else. I don’t present candidates to my clients if they have a motivation that is far, far, far beyond just money. That can’t be the real motivation for making a change. It has to be personal and cultural to make that change work.

Mike:   Wow. Well, I had a feeling that’s what you’d say. It’s mainly your supervisor issue primarily because that’s what I’ve seen typically. All the more important as a manager/supervisor/leader to continue to hone your skills.

Mark:   Exactly.

Mike:   Appreciate people and live the golden rule, right?

Mark:   Exactly right.

Mike:   Do to them what you want them to do onto you. There’s a platinum one right? Have you heard the platinum rule?

Mark:   What is the platinum rule?

Mike:   I think the platinum rule goes something like do unto that person like that person wants to be done unto.

Mark:   There you go. That is a great rule.

Mike:   Something like that.

Mark:   Exactly. Which really is when I started consulting with organizations and mid-managers in particular who are—That’s the sector of people that have the biggest challenge because a lot of them haven’t been supervisors before and they may not have developed the skills and may have horrendous relationships with their staff. A result of that is helping people realize that enabling your direct reports actually takes things off your plate so you can be more effective as a supervisor in the end. So many people say, “No, I’m just going to keep this to myself. I want my people to do their job. I’m going to do my job.” That basically creates silos on your team. That’s what I look for. I will tell you, that’s what I look for in candidates. I want candidates that have that type of experience because I can match them up with supervisors who are the opposite. The supervisors are saying, “Hey, I want to move up in the organization. I want to find somebody that can replace me.” Or “We’re going to expand our market. If you bring this person on, I may need somebody in three years that can run that whole business unit, right?” I can easily match up candidates who are frustrated because their supervisor is holding back on them or holding out on them with somebody who says, “Hey, I want them to learn as fast as possible because I want to move on myself.”

Mike:   Great. Well Mark, I appreciate your investment of time with us today.

Mark:   No problem. I enjoyed it.

Mike:   I did as well. I really appreciate your insights into searching for talent in this challenging environment that we’re living here in 2020. Hopefully, we see some good changes in 2021.

Mark:   Exactly.

Mike:   Yeah. I wish you the best. Hope we run into one another at a face to face event maybe in 2021, right?

Mark: Yeah. We are originally we’re going to meet in November, but it looks like it’s June, right?

Mike:   Yeah, we’ve rescheduled our executive summit to June, right? Look forward to June 21st or something I think it is. June 21, 21. That’s what it is.

Mark:   There you go. There you go.

Mike:   Yeah, looking forward to seeing you then if not sooner.

Mark:   Sounds great Mike.

Mike:   All right the best to you Mark. Mark Waschek from Ag1Source. Have a great day.

Mark:   Thanks Mike.