Diversity in the Agricultural Workplace

As agriculture itself has diversified, so has its workforce. In response, AgCareers.com conducted the Workplace Diversity Survey to capture employer’s efforts to address diversity within their organizations. While there’s a lot of talk about workplace diversity, we wanted data to back up the statement that the agriculture industry generally embraces and supports diversity in the workplace.

Eighty-two organizations across a variety of agricultural sectors in 28 states participated in the survey. A key takeaway was that no longer is there a “typical” employee in agriculture; rather we’ve outgrown stereotypes about the demographics of our industry. This is encouraging for job seekers who want to know they are going to work in an industry that welcomes diversity in its most traditional sense, as well as a broader scope that accounts for diversity of thought and experiences.

Organizational Demographics
The survey asked respondents about the diverse talent represented within their organizations and the results are encouraging. In fact, 83% of respondents included females as diverse talent. This was followed by 67% of respondents reporting that more than one race is represented by their employees, and 65% stating that diverse ethnicities were represented in their organization.

Figure 1

AgCareers chart 1

The survey also asked about specific demographics represented by the respondent’s full-time employees. The federal government requires employers with at least 100 employees to annually file a report with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that includes the gender and racial composition of their workforce. Due to this requirement AgCareers.com anticipated that most survey respondents would have information available for these two categories.

Respondents provided the most complete information on the inclusion of female employees. Not only are larger employers required to report this information, but as an outwardly visible trait, gender is more easily identifiable.

Sixty-seven percent of employers were unsure about the number of LGBTQIA (according to the Urban Dictionary, this refers to: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, and asexual or allied) employees in their organization and 70% were unsure of the number of employees who represent a religion other than Christianity. It could be assumed the high response of “unsure” is because these demographics aren’t outwardly visible.  

Disabled, Hispanic and non-white full-time employees were most frequently reported as comprising less than 5% of the organizations total employees. Employees with a nationality other than American also comprised less than 5% of our respondent’s total employees.

The high frequency of “unsure” responses coupled with comments provided by respondents throughout the survey lend to an assumption that employers don’t often focus on the demographics of an individual, rather, they are hiring the best candidate for the job.

Recruitment Efforts
Organizations were nearly evenly split on their response as to whether they have challenges with recruiting diverse employees. Interestingly, smaller organizations (50 employees or fewer) report not having challenges with recruiting diverse talent. In fact, 89% of organizations with 26 to 50 employees say they do not have trouble with recruitment. The organizations reporting difficulty in recruiting were asked to rank their challenges. The most prevalent challenge was lack of diverse applicants. This was followed by location of jobs, a common industry trend regardless of the targeted audience.

Over half of respondents indicated that their recruiting strategies are aimed at increasing the diversity represented in their organization. The No. 1 reason organizations said they recruit diverse candidates is to build an environment of diverse perspectives and experiences.

Figure 2

AgCareers chart 2

Retention Efforts
Some organizations did report having strategies aimed specifically at retaining a diverse workforce. For the organizations that do have specific retention strategies, more than 90% utilize formalized mentoring. This was followed by hosting cultural events (54%) and less than one-third form affinity groups. Encouragingly, 65% of organizations reported that they do not have trouble retaining diverse employees.

What are the Major Takeaways?
While the term “diversity” has historically been used to reference differences in race, as evident by AgCareers.com Workplace Diversity Survey, a more accurate definition would encompass a host of demographics, as well as diversity of thought and experiences.

Also, survey data lends to the consensus that typically, employers do not focus on the demographics of an individual. Rather, they are hiring the best candidate for the job and report that diversity happens naturally.

As with most anything involving human capital, there is room for improvement as the agriculture industry strives to foster diverse workplaces. Consideration should be given as to how more diverse talent can be prepared to excel within higher level roles at their organization. Additionally, human resource professionals and organizational leaders can utilize the report to assess how they address workplace diversity challenges and opportunities.

To access the complete Workplace Diversity Survey- 2018 U.S. Edition report visit https://www.agcareers.com/reports.cfm.