Talent Development: Why training, mentorship, and diversity matter

Talent development is a critical but often overlooked factor in a company’s long-term performance, financial or otherwise.

In the produce industry, however, talent development often takes a back seat to the time-critical daily activities of running a business.

“As a manager, if you take the time to develop your employees, you set yourself up for higher retention rates,” said Amanda Griffin, senior director of education and member programs at United Fresh Produce Association in Washington, DC. “Training programs, both tactical in nature and soft skills-centered, give employees the ability to do their jobs and the confidence to advance their careers.”

When is the best time to start planning? Right now.

“There will always be a hindrance as to why either the timing isn’t right or there isn’t money in the budget,” Griffin said. “If you start talking now about training and opportunities for your staff, you can plan ahead.”

Retaining quality employees is a key goal of any talent development program. “It’s important as a draw for high-quality candidates, but it’s even more important in the retention of high-quality candidates,” said Kristen Reid, executive vice president at Mixtec Group in La Crescenta, CA.

The State of the American Workplace, a Gallup report released in 2017, found that slightly more than half (51 percent) of American workers were actively searching for new jobs or watching for openings. The top reason cited for leaving a job was a desire for career growth.

“Unless they’re grossly underpaid, most people don’t leave for money,” said Rex Lawrence, president of online job center and executive search firm Joe Produce in Granite Bay, CA. “People leave due to management style or culture.”

One statistic from the Gallup survey is particularly telling: only 33 percent of U.S. employees are “engaged” in their jobs. This lack of engagement correlates with a desire to leave, with 56 percent of nonengaged and 73 percent of actively disengaged employees looking for jobs or watching opportunities, versus 37 percent of employees who are content.

“This is pretty frightening,” said Mike Chirveno, founder of ClearVision Consulting in Kansas City, MO. “It should be a wakeup call—employees need to be engaged and feel like they’re making a contribution.”

Career development opportunities are particularly important for millennials—aged 23 to 37 in 2019—who represent a prime segment of the workforce. According to Reid, members of this group will stay with a job longer than other generations if they see a clear career path. “They’re driven by self-improvement,” she says.

This is an excerpt from the most recent Produce Blueprints quarterly journal. Click here to read the full version.