USPOULTRY seminar: recruiting, retaining workforce

Speaking before a record attendance at U.S. Poultry & Egg Association’s 2016 Human Resources Seminar in Destin, Fla., Chris Lauderdale shared his perception of the poultry workplace and challenged attendees to always be prepared to share their story.

“Despite the negative narrative of worker activist groups such as Oxfam, the poultry and egg industry has a great story to tell regarding employment and advancement opportunities,” said Chris Lauderdale, an attorney with Jackson Lewis LLP, who spoke at the recent U.S. Poultry & Egg Association’s 2016 Human Resources Seminar, which drew record-breaking attendance. Lauderdale shared his perception of the poultry workplace and challenged attendees to always be prepared to talk about the facts of HR in the industry.

Commenting on charges that poultry is a low wage industry, Lauderdale shared median wage data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 2015 in the four largest broiler producing states, the median wage for poultry processing ranged from 81 percent to 95 percent of the non-metropolitan area median wage for all occupations. In addition to wages, the industry provides competitive benefits, contributes to social and economic development in rural communities and helps supply a basic global need, providing employment that is both important and rewarding. Lauderdale believes that poultry can and should be the employer of choice in many communities and encouraged the human resources managers in attendance to promote a fresh narrative based on the facts as they recruit new talent.

“A key to workforce retention requires well-trained supervisors,” said Lauren Leighton, Keystone Foods’ director of global talent and communications. She began with an eye-opening revelation from a 2015 Gallup report that found that about half of the 7,200 adults surveyed had left a job at some point “to get away from their immediate manager.” She said that “front-line supervisors can positively or negatively impact employees’ engagement and motivation, productivity and job satisfaction, which in turn impacts product quality, efficiency and business results.” Leighton shared the basics of Keystone’s Excellence in Supervision program that seeks to train supervisors on how their behavior impacts the workplace, on communication skills, teamwork, diversity and coaching. Referring to the old “which came first” question, she asked, “Which came first, the supervisor’s success or your business’s success?” Without question, she said the answer will always be the supervisor as she encouraged all attendees to focus on their supervisor training programs.

Always well attended are the roundtable workshops where human resources managers can share best practices and ask questions of their peers. Especially popular during this year’s seminar were roundtables on retention and recruiting as well as establishing HR’s role in the safety culture.

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