Episode 32

32: The true cost of employee turnover in swine production with Jon Hoek

This thought-provoking episode forms part of the podcast series which addresses the trained labor shortage issue within the pork production industry. We visit with Jon Hoek, the president of Summit Smart Farms whose mission is to equip employees and their employers in ways that will optimize on-farm results. The economic impact of proper employee training is quantified and Cloverleaf – a program that simplifies industrial psychology – is discussed. To learn more about The Sunswine Group’s Coffee & Career’s program visit www.coffeeandcareersinanimalscience.com.

32: The true cost of employee turnover in swine production with Jon Hoek

Hello there.  This is Dr. Casey Bradley and you’re listening to The Real P3 podcast, a podcast dedicated to the real pork producers around the world. I hope you enjoy.


This episode is part 2 in our series on the labor issue and employee relations. In this week’s episode, we’re gonna have Jon Hoek with Summit Smart Farms talk about some economic analysis that they have done around the issue of employee turnover, and what that means not only from a financial standpoint for operations but also your key KPI’s that you have in your system. We’re gonna talk about how we deal with this, what we need to change in our culture and just dive into our problem a little bit further. So stay tuned.



Casey: Hello, Jon, how are you today?

Jon: I’m doin’ well, Casey. Thank you for the opportunity to visit today.

C: Yes. Would you mind telling the audience a little about yourself and your company?

J: Sure. My name is Jon Hoek. I am the President of Summit Smart Farms (SSF). In 2018, we formed Summit Smart Farms to tackle two problems in the industry. One, the human capital challenge and also decision-ready information, providing the industry with tools that allow us to take the waterfall of data and convert it into actionable items. This was a product of a meeting we had to discover what the industry was concerned about. We had about 600,000 sows at that meeting and those two objectives came out. So, our mission/vision at SSF is to equip people and to optimize results. I spent 30 years in production Ag. I had left a [02:00] long-time engagement with Belstra Milling to start SSF in 2017.

C: Well, we have a lot in common, I think. As you know my passion is to support the industry as well. I’ve asked you to come on to this episode today because we’re focusing on a special series around the labor shortage and employee relations. So, in our last conversation – to catch the audience up – you talked about data analytics that you’ve done combining the two specialties you have about what the true cost is of employee turnover. Can you talk to us a little bit about that?

J: Sure. One of the worst things to happen in a start-up is COVID, if not the worst thing for any business, but… We were just kinda gaining some momentum coming into COVID; it, of course, stalled a little through the pandemic, and we turned our efforts toward building a software tool called Smart Team. Smart Team is a built in the Power BI platform. In our market research, there isn’t very much data around the true cost of some of the metrics that we talk about as problems to solve, and so we set out to look at this with the Maschhoff organization and have developed this tool and a couple of the key findings of this tool. We have 125,000 sows on 44 farms – about 3.3 million pigs – and we ran the key influencers report on Power BI and when tenure goes up by about 7 months on the farm, we see correlations to weaned pig cost decreasing .41 cents. Turnover: when turnover goes up, we see corresponding increases in weaned pig cost. One of the things that was really [04:00] interesting to us was the impact of PSY that tenuring has. And we looked at the resulting PSY increases for each 1 year increase in tenure. This is across 44 farms, 125,000 sows. The manager’s impact on PSY is .12 while the caregiver technician is 1.18. Team leads were .45 and all positions were .98. What that really starts to tell us is the impact of training, the impact of employee retention is tied to economic performance. And it allows us to really, with precision, look at how and what format we use for training employees to maximize tenure, and to lower turnover rates.

C: You know what that also tells me, Jon? Is that maybe we need to invest a little bit more into those pig-care people?

J: Yep. That was one conclusion that we talked about as well that you know our industry is full of incredibly talented people, and if you look at how we’ve scaled – we talk about this quite often – we’ve scaled these businesses into locations that are really the size of many small businesses in the US and you have managers overseeing 10, 20, 30, 40 employees, depending on the size of the farm. So really targeting leadership and people management from the manager’s perspective and targeting pig care and pig production strategies on the caregiver-technician side really, I think, enhances the profit potential and the return potential on the farm.

C: Yep. Most people may have missed my social media posts [06:00] a little bit where calling out a few companies, and basically I did some Roth economic math and you know wages has been discussed and minimum wage. And if you do the basic math of you know a rent, a car payment, a family of four, including some childcare in there, you know the minimum – bare minimum – it takes to get by today is $16/hr for both working parents, and we look at our starting wages for these pig-caregivers and obviously I’ve noticed a major – like we have a problem. We’re not paying enough. We’re starting a lot out at $13-14/hr and we wonder why our turnover’s going up. Working with the Maschhoffs, have they addressed this at all?

J: Yeah. I think that the wages are somewhat geographical and depending on how close you are to urban areas, you know, where I live, we’re an hour and a half away from Chicago. Starting wages for farms here are starting at $16-17/hr. I think the important consideration is the comparison to other industries like you mentioned. In our area here, you can get a… drive a garbage truck for $23-24/hr, very competitive benefits packages, and I think it’s important to consider compensation, but it’s also important to consider the culture that surrounds the work environment and those types of things. I think that we definitely have to increase wages. We have to do that through productivity, and we have to do that through technology. I often use the analogy: we put up $20-30 million complexes, hire folks to run these very sophisticated businesses, and the productivity has to justify the type of [08:00] wages that we need to get to.

C: Well, I went back and did my math in preparation to talk to you. I worked salary for New Fashion Pork when I first started – I’m not gonna tell the audience how many years ago, but you can guess – and I did my wages if I worked a 50-hr week, which was what was required of me. I made about $8.68 as a manager trainee/farm manager for them. So obviously, I was like, I was paying student loans back, I was paying rent, and it was like no wonder I wasn’t makin’ it. And back then we didn’t have good training programs and really good… You know today, there’s a lot better trainee programs and things. Looking at that, what are some of your recommendations to recruit talent? Obviously, we need technology-gifted individuals, we need people who can work independent. What are some strategies, either benefits, wages, things like that to get people to come to work for us and stay?

J: There’s a couple of different ways to approach this. I think culture before content is always an important thing and really has to happen first. That’s one thing at SSF we have… that’s why we have an “Equip People.” We’re one of the only technology companies that really synthesizes the labor aspect and the technology aspect. Our industry has tremendous variation in production. I’ve talked to industry experts. Some estimate there’s $50 between the top and the bottom. There’s some that estimate there’s $20 between the top and the bottom. I think we can all agree there’s a lot of money on the table. That is part of the fuel that’s going to allow us to really adapt technology, to drive that cost variation out, and to build cultures of innovation that allow us to really help people meet their dreams and their goals. I always talk about [10:00] the fact that our job is one of the best jobs in the world, and somebody that loves to see pigs born every day, it’s very satisfying. I think the culture aspect of it is 70-80% of the battle. Obviously, you gotta pay living wages; obviously you’ve gotta incentivize. We’ve been so adjusted to the commodity mindset and the cost mindset, and I think we have to shift our attention to capturing value and a bit of the abundance mindset in going after some of this value that will help us stabilize some of these labor metrics.

C: I love you bringing up culture, and you’ve picked a kind of a hot topic, because a lot of our producers are “least cost.” When somebody tells me that, it shuts me right down. It doesn’t fit my ethics and my morals and my values. From the standpoint – I’m a “best cost.” But I like to mention in the culture, right? I think some of the comments I’ve had back from employees and managers and stuff is that, you know, every day we go to work and we’re just trying to get everything done, and we work so lean that it’s kinda hard to enjoy our jobs. You know, the reason I went in the industry is I loved animals! I loved pigs, and like you said there was nothing more satisfying than helping a sow deliver baby pigs, saving them and seeing them weaned. Right? It’s instant gratification; you know you achieved something. How do we get back to that to where we can build in time for that culture to exist again and it’s just not about checking the boxes?

J: Absolutely. That’s a great question and a great comment, and I think it’s all about being intentional [12:00] and being intentional in how you approach it. You know, we go outside of industry to study how other companies do it, and companies like McKinsey & Company and if you follow Dave Ramsey and some of his strategies… You have to be intentional and so we have 4 buckets that we look at. We look at employee optimization. You have to have organizational clarity, you have to have a clear vision, you have to have role clarity, you have to have radical candor, you have to have training programs. Leadership pipeline is the second bucket. You have to transform individual contributors to knowledge workers, you have to have talent development, you have to have this foundational leadership program. You have to have a continuous improvement is the third bucket. You have to have measurable objectives, you have to have clear expectations, and you have to have coaching and leadership training. And then you have to have the 4th bucket we talk about is transformation by innovation. How to do knowledge-share, how to you ideate innovation, how do you get an external idea pipeline, and how do you get a voice of the customer? All of our products that we develop out of SSF have to cover these four buckets. And it’s an intentional execution in these four areas is very similar to some of the organizational health principles that some of the major consulting groups use outside of Ag. And you have to understand the people. And you have to create a type of rigor and discipline that really predicts and starts to process map how we do things in the barn. I think innovation and – I don’t like to use the word lean manufacturing because so many people associate it negatively, but – really our industry is ripe for continuous improvement lean industrial engineering platform to come in.

C: Mmmhmm.

J: And we need that. We don’t give our [14:00] employees at times any overview of what the expectation is, how long it’s gonna take to do specific tasks. That’s a new frontier that we’re entering into. And then I think that the principles of industrial psychology have not been used. And they’ve been used in industry for 100 years, and I think there’s some really good systems out there to engage people, whether it’s personality assessments, whether it’s coaching and leadership training that need to come in to our business. We suffer from the tyranny of the urgent. There’s always a fire. And I don’t think that’s ever gonna completely go away, but we should not let the business run us. We should run the business.

C: No. I agree. And then I’ve worked with a lot of younger people, you know, still in college, coming out early in their careers and in different types of roles. The biggest thing I hear from them – and I don’t know even if we give them from our industry standpoint and going back to my history and looking at some of the problems – that a lot of them come out and they wanna make that twenty-some dollars an hour in 6 months, they wanna be that manager in a year, and there’s no clear expectations and timelines. Because I’ve spoke to many producers and I said, “Do you have a timeline of success and what that employee’s lifestyle’s gonna look like in three years and where can they go?” And I see that as a major failure that we don’t have clear expectations, and I think the younger generation really need that. They’ve – as I call ‘em – have been helicopter-mommed, and I’m teaching some of them right now – that you have to really define where, what, when, how and why to these people, and I think that also comes into like their career, and so I kinda like your buckets, right? So, a lot of development [16:00] work in that clarity and that open-mindness comes to mind when I think of this problem.

J: Yeah, and one of the things that I was impacted heavily by a book called The Leadership Pipeline and what I like to do is I read business books outside of Ag and then I apply it to Ag. And it was one of the clearest representations of how to build that leadership pipeline. So, starting with the entry level single contributor moving your way up to the CEO or the President, and if you don’t have a clear architecture, labor architecture and personal development architecture at any point in time of that leadership pipeline on how a person can have a trajectory, someday if they wanna be a CEO or a President, there’s gonna be ambiguity. And when there’s ambiguity, people start looking. So, in my previous position, we designed an architecture for the sow farm and for the farms, we designed personal development plans, we did 9 boxes. We provided a means for somebody to look up the pipeline and say – ask their supervisor – how do I get there? And then you lay out the roadmap. That’s what people want.

C: I was gonna also notice in my career as a manager, like there was a lots of – in my early career – lots of promises that weren’t kept, and basically I was a burnout, right. I’m like I’m not gonna stick with this. There’s no help. You’re blaming me for every problem. Yet I don’t have the tools to fix it and I was faced with local labor and the best I could get is you know people with DUI’s who had court dates every week it seemed like or different things like that. And they were like, well, do you want us to advertise for somebody, and you know [18:00] I think there’s sometimes disconnect.

J: Here’s an example. So, my partner is at Baylor and has built many successful businesses, but his advice to me and his advice I suppose to anybody who will listen, is you can’t leave without love. And the one of the biggest killers of culture is trust. So, it asks the question of employees and we ask the question of employers do you create a culture of trust and do you love your people? If you don’t love ‘em and if you treat ‘em as commodities, they’re gonna understand it and they’re gonna go to the next place. I think we have to think of ourselves… I know our clients we talk about how do you create that irresistible workplace. A place where when somebody gets frustrated at Farm X, they think I gotta go work for Casey, or I gotta go work for Jon. You wanna create that, and it starts with trust. Are you trustworthy as an employer and do you love your people? You can’t fake those things.

C: No, you can’t. Something else I’ve done with my new business, because I can, is my interns and employees that work with me have clear transparency of my bottom line. They know my costs, they know my goals, and we create a path forward together, and I think sometimes we don’t do that very well in Ag either, with our employees, and I think that goes to trust. It – I could say – has been very well received with the few employees I have so far.

J: Yeah, and you know we’ve been a part of… we’ve done some research on the impact of engagement on performance, and for every increase [20:00] in our engagement survey we saw 1:1 correlation in PSY increases. One of the factors there was a question of supervisors: the relationship between the supervisor and the employee. And there was also a correlation between the tasks and the satisfaction with the tasks that were being done by the employee. The supervisor would give them a satisfactory score and so all that… You thread trust through all these relationships and that’s how teams excel. One of the platforms that we use is called Cloverleaf, which coalesces all the major assessments into a single dashboard and sends you insights on a daily basis based on who you’re gonna talk to in the organization. The founders of Cloverleaf started that business because they saw the power of high-performance teams and teams that were engaged with each other. They also experienced the disconnect of teams that lacked trust and that lacked love and created a business out of it to help people understand each other around trust. I think the other piece to really leading with love is understanding what makes the people that work for you tick – from an industrial psychology standpoint – and that’s a tool that we don’t see widely used.

C: No. And I would say I am a firm believer in Cloverleaf. Thanks to you guys for letting me try it out. Now I am officially paying for it. But what I noticed about that is I’ve had a couple positions , and I have went back to my team and when I go back to look at those personality traits of my team, and I haven’t made the new hires take the assessments, but I can – talking to them – know where they’re gonna fit a little bit. It makes me question of who I wanna hire. I may not hire the best person for the job. I may hire… what I’ve found my decision making as I talk about the decision I wanna make is the person that’s gonna fit best with my team, right? To keep that culture going. And I’ll use my example and I’ll give you some stuff from Kalmbach Feeds of they make all their employees take a personality test before they hire them. I think that’s a good idea, unless you… but I’d warn you, and I feel that my supervisor may have made this mistake – they used it against me and said that based on my personality profile that I couldn’t do x, right? I wouldn’t be good in the field; I wouldn’t be good at technical service. We all know how that personality profile was totally wrong, working with me with things and see where I’ve gone. But one of the best things they did, and this goes into development – how do we take those personalities, build that culture we want, but develop the employees that [22:00] may have those weaknesses, and the best thing Kalmbach did for me was they gave me a opportunity to take the Dale Carnegie leadership course. Like if I would have taken that as a 20-year-old farm manager for New Fashion Pork, I would have been a totally different manager. So kinda talk about some of that development stuff as well and how – because that’s one of your buckets, developing that.

J: Right. Yes. Yeah. We use the Cloverleaf in a number of different areas, but the development is a big part of that in the sense of we believe in playing to the strengths. And our… Cloverleaf is not a tool to – how do I wanna say this – just because you fall into a certain bucket under this or you fall into a certain bucket on the enneagram doesn’t necessarily disqualify you from whatever position you’re being hired into. It only informs how you [24:00] learn and train and tackle that position. So, we’re very aware that none of the assessments disqualifies someone for a particular position, but they also… they allow for a strategic learning strategy around the strengths of that person. That’s how we use – we do leadership development around Cloverleaf platform by taking one or two assessments a month and working through exercises with teams. One other thing that is lacking, I think, in our industry – the pork industry – is regular communications and regular one-on-ones with leaders and reports. Cloverleaf equips you like nothin’ I’ve ever seen with the insights. Funny story, I was on with a client the other day and he had made a particular – done something – in the previous day, I don’t know if it was a mistake or a small mistake – and next morning he got a Cloverleaf insight that spoke to that mistake in some fashion indirectly, and he accused his manager of writing the insights that Cloverleaf sends, which was really funny, and we get that all the time. People say, “You’re reading my mind, or you must be listening to my conversations.” But I say that because industrial psychology is a proven science. My generation – I’m in my mid-50s – early on that was kinda looked at as kind of voo-doo, but as you study the science behind it, as you study the science behind human behavior, it becomes a very effective tool in understanding. In fact, it’s empirically proven that general mental ability testing and programs like Cloverleaf and like the assessments involved in it are as accurate [26:00] as an in-person interview in making decisions. And only when you put the two together do you get this hybrid prediction of utility and predictability of how that person’s gonna perform. So, we embrace that and embrace it in a way that allows us to lead with love because we know that person far better than we would without it.



We wanna take this break to thank our sponsors, The Sunswine Group, NutraSign, Swine Nutrition Management and Pig Progress.  But we also wanted to remind you of our new Facebook group, the Global Swine Professionals.  We’re gonna be doing something fun; some live interviews, some Q&A and we just wanna hear from our audience, so that’s a great place for you to take the time, leave us a comment, tell us what you wanna hear, or volunteer to be on our show, because we’re always looking for those awesome pork producers around the world.  Well, that’s all I had, so let’s get back to that appisode now.



C: So, I got a really tough question then for you on this, because this just – I love this content. Are we training our animal scientists – so bachelor’s degree type animal scientists coming out are gonna be our managers, our production managers, which usually they have a bachelor’s degree in that or two-year program – are we training them wrong? Are we teaching them wrong? Should they be more psychology majors? Should they, you know, look into some of those courses and not so much science? And what are your thoughts on that of educating our workforce?

J: That’s a great question and I’ll tell ya how I approached it. Early in my career, as I interacted with production, I quickly realized that if I can learn how to lead people that I would always be in demand. I tell my kids if you love to lead people, you will always be looked at as a leader, I guess. I think that yes, it’s imperative, I think it’s imperative, that anybody who has aspirations of leading people and of leadership and of running companies and of making a difference in the world, it revolves around people. One of the things that was really interesting is good pig-people aren’t always good people-people. So, we promote people out of an area where their strengths are to do something that they don’t like to do, and that generally is a culture killer. Understanding people, loving people, and leading people in psychology and all those I think are imperative that any scientist would – regardless of the discipline – would have to, would, I think would, wanna engage in.

C: Thanks for that. I mean I would say, you know college I think 95% of it and how they graded me on tests was absolutely worthless for my career. I still think that way. Um… but one of the things I guess I wouldn’t – I have a PhD, so it’s kinda hard to say that I suffered through and I did well in school too, but I also tell everybody I have a PhD in hard-knocks, and I think my mindset is a little different, and sometimes I think managers get promoted fast. I was that young person and wanted to get promoted, and I wanted to lead all these farms and stuff, but there’s something going back and learning how to do the basics right, and I can tell everybody, there’s a job, just about every job I have done in the industry except work daily on a kill line. You know, I’ve killed and butchered my pigs for different experiments [30:00]  and things like that, but there’s not a job that on that farm that I haven’t done in my career, and so automatically I think my mindset changes that I know what those employees face, and I think sometimes we even get some of these managers that maybe need to go back and realize what it takes to power-wash a barn, or why you don’t like to do it, or something like that to be able to change our cultures.

J: Right.

C: Kinda any thoughts on that of, you know, experiences as well that are needed to be a good leader?

J: Yeah. Absolutely, Casey. I think I appreciate PhD’s, I appreciate scientific rigor and discipline, but I also think that there is a role, there is a calling for… I think the pig business offers some of the best career opportunities for all levels of education. And I think we have to pursue means to transform – I always say transform – ordinary people into doing extraordinary things. Too heavy of an emphasis on academic performance versus on-farm performance or how that person contributes to a culture can cause a system to go out of balance. I think you have to be careful with hubris in some of these areas, and humility is something that has to be at all levels of the organizational chart. But quite frankly, we’re not gonna find farm kids, we’re not gonna find folks that have grown up; our job has to be as attractive as the factory job down the street or [32:00] whatever is out there, and so… We have a system called quality performance system, which was born out of our construction companies, but it’s basically a lean manufacturing concept. But we use the Ebbinghaus 8 keys of learning, read less remember more, tell a story, test-quiz-ask, active participants will remember, repeat to retain, apply learning to the real world, guide learners through and review-summarize-demonstrate. So, we look at every level of the org chart as an opportunity to build a leader and to really bring people to what their dreams and goals are.

C: I agree. I think one last point – and I’d like to hear your point on this – is what people first thing people see is what they expect. I’ll use the example of how many different sow farms that you’ve showered in at, inadequate shower facilities, office facilities, and you know I went on to Hanor farm and gilt development for them, and wow, the manager’s allowed personality in her office, she’s got paintings, she’s got decoration. The clothes were organized, there’s plenty of towels, there’s plenty of sizes of clothes, right. I loved it. But it made people feel like home and this was their home. And I’ve been into other facilities where I don’t even have a towel, let alone clothes that fit me, and it was so dirty and nasty, right, you don’t wanna be there. And is that – from a facilities standpoint, cause we wanna talk about people they’re there 8-10 hours/day, 6-7 days a week, right – what do we need to be doing from a facilities standpoint to make it feel like home and make people feel like they wanna be there in a dirty job.

J: Yeah, that’s a great point. And when we talk about culture, [34:00] and we talk about retention and tenure, and all those things are… Culture is developed through a thousand small decisions. It’s not a silver bullet. It’s not this grand strategy, and one of the most simplest and impactful ways to lead with love is to give ‘em, to give your people, a great place to rest and to take a break. I believe that that – you know the dirty environment that you explained – it develops a mindset that is, yeah, it’s subpar. And so, leadership has to implement actionable ways that they show that they care about their people. The Hanor example, I’ve seen many farms, a lot of companies like that. They’ve got great facilities. I was in a open house for a large 10,000 here in Indiana and they were gonna bring a chef in for a group, they had it was a good-size group, they had beautiful lunchroom facilities, and they fed the folks breakfast and lunch and you know, it’s those actions that really drive culture rather than vision statements and mission statements that don’t line up with actions. So, those are things that are absolutely necessary and actually demonstrate love to the people that work with you and for you.

C: I would agree. Food’s the easiest way to show love sometimes, and every time I tried to visit or if I had a hard day, I’m trying to bring treats for the staff, and if I know I’m gonna make their life difficult, I always try to spoil ‘em the best I can, if I’m allowed to, right?

J: Yep, you bet. You bet. Yep.

C: Well, we’ve spoken a lot of good things for our audience to [36:00] kinda reflect on. I think this is kinda really good. Before we go, I always give my guests an opportunity to turn the table and ask me a question. So, do you have anything you’d like to ask me?

J: As you see and obviously are passionate about this labor issue, what are say the top three things, Casey, that you look at or advise people on to solve this problem?

C: Top three…?

J: Maybe we don’t have enough time for the top three, but… [chuckle]

C: You know, I’ve been asked this, and so I’ve been really investigating this, and I’ve taken this to heart, and I’ve asked to be on a task force for Oklahoma Pork and different things, and I’ve taken this to heart because it’s obviously a problem, right? It’s number one problem, you ask any producers, we don’t have enough labor, and I’m trying to run a research project as well. You know, with COVID on top of it, we are out staff. I think COVID’s opened our eyes a little bit. I do appreciate the fact that at least with COVID we’re allowing our employees to take off when they’re sick, so…. I think we have to humanize our employees and, you know, people hear industrial psychology and running it like a factory, and that kinda seems scary and there’s components to that, but we also have to a lot of times we do a lot of things for the benefit of the animal, but we rarely talk about benefits of people. Let’s use the sow mortality example, and I loved Wayne Cass talking about this earlier and you know he goes, “In our economic models, we don’t really think of the full cost of sow mortality.” And so, that’s a problem I think right there from our industry: sow mortality, finisher mortality, nursery mortality. I think we need as scientists and managers, is how are we gonna fix that, because you wanna talk about [38:00] ruining moral, drag out those dead sows, drag out those finisher pigs, have to knock those baby pigs in the head. And I think that can weigh on people a lot more than we realize. That mortality, that disease problem. Obviously, they’re correlated to people and people doin’ their jobs right, too, at times, but I think that’s a number one problem we need to address for morality and morale in our systems, right. Nobody wants to go to work and have to drag out dead bodies. My husband’s a police officer and he tries to avoid those calls, too. [chuckling]

J: Yes. Yes, absolutely.

C: So, yeah. That’s a number one problem that we need to address, because that’s most depressing thing that ever… you work so hard and you can’t fix it, right, you can’t fix it alone. And that’s what I felt like as a manager a lot in seeing that in my first large confinement thing. It’s like… I can’t fix it and it’s depressing and I wanna fix it. I think we have a lot of employees out there and that’s a burnout thing in my mind.  And then the second one is where we recruit. I’ve been trying to follow a lot of veteran’s organizations, and… I know a few veterans that have transitioned out – one’s I think a lieutenant or higher – and they are allowed to do like a 6-month internship as they transfer out of the military, for instance, at the end of their careers. I’m just trying to follow the veterans and see how they do that a little differently. Do we need to align with some of these organizations? And you want talk about people who understand process control and SOP’s, you know, I look at a military or government agency that lives by that. So, do we need to recruit differently? I look at an untapped potential, right. A lot of training. In the military they go through tons of training. So that goes into recruiting but also maybe looking [40:00] at how they train their soldiers, right, for their specialty tasks, right, that personal development and things there and maybe look – as you said outside industry – so I’ve been trying to connect and study different things, so I think recruiting differently. I’m working with students today at a small Christian college, nothing in Ag. They love to hear about my job. How often is our industry – I know we have Operation Main Street and we go talk about production and stuff, but there’s none of us goin’ into the schools in middle school talking about all the jobs available in animal science. The only thing I thought I could be when I went to college was a veterinarian. And I realized – what? I could study nutrition and just work with pigs? I think I’m gonna do that!  And I don’t have to pay, you know, $100,000 in vet school costs?

J: Yep

C: But I think everybody asks, well when do we need to do that? And I think it’s really more, like that middle school, right. Realizing the jobs out there. Because just take swine production. Look at how many different jobs, as you said for education of all levels, right. And sometimes we may just talk to the FFA kids and I think that’s a mistake. We need a better outreach. And that goes into recruitment. I think I did two, and so you said a third one. And the third one is I think we really need to have clear expectations and we need to have purpose. This new generation – it’s not about a job, because they can look around and they can go get a job wherever they want that pays $13, $16, $20/hr, but how do we… We are so passionate and purposeful and we say it’s the best job in the world that we feed the world. How do we get that across to the employees that are processing our pigs every day that are power-washing and make it seem like a purposeful job, a purposeful industry [42:00] versus the paintings that they get that we abuse animals and it’s dirty and it stinks. You know, I think that’s where we need to – as you said we’re not getting the farm kids anymore, so where do we build that passion? It was something born in me. I don’t know how it was developed. It possibly was through working with my dad, but it was part of who I am. So how do we recreate people like that in a generation where we don’t have it. So, I guess those are my top three.

J: Awesome Yep. And I think that I look at some of the mid-level compensations in some of these barns where there’s people with either no high school diploma or high school diplomas in that $40-80,000 range, and that’s a pretty good wage compared to trying to slug it out at a big box store or something like that. I think there’s talent there that can be unlocked even for greater good if we handle the culture right and recruit like you said, right, and I think it’s exciting. I think it’s an exciting time for our industry, especially layering in the whole technology play that’s coming. I think it’s time to make it all continuous improvement better than what it’s ever been before.

C: Exactly. The last thing I wanted to leave is the mindset. We can call ‘em problems and The Real P3’s kinda around problems, but every problem’s really truly opportunity and we need to shift that mindset to think of it as opportunity rather than a problem. And I think we would come up with a lot better ideas if we saw it as a opportunity.

J: I totally agree.  Couldn’t agree more.

C: Well, thank you Jon for the wonderful conversation and thanks for bein’ on the podcast.

J: Yep. [44:00] Thank you, Casey. Thanks for having me.

C: Before we go, I really hope these episodes are maybe giving you some aha moments, some lightbulb moments. I can tell you as a young farm manager, I was not very good. I made a lot of fatal mistakes. I’ve learned from them, but I’ve also taken some key trainings in my career that’s made me better. And I look back at when I took Dale Carnegie training when I was at Kalmbach Feeds; that was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself, and imagine if I would have been that 20-year-old manager and took that program, how different I would have been, how successful I could have been for New Fashion Pork. I go over in my mind several times of how I could have been more successful, had better production numbers, reduced my employee turnover. It’s something that’s haunted me all my career of understanding how I would have been a better leader, a better manager, and something I have personally focused on throughout my career, and I’m doing that through The Real P3. There’s some other trainings that we’re offering through the Coffee & Careers in Animal Science platform (www.coffeeandcareersinanimalscience.com). If you’re interested in that, check that out. We’re gonna have a lot of specials coming out. But we’re here to help. We’re here to solve the problem. One of the key things that came out after having Brent Green and Jon talk about some of this stuff with our students in Coffee & Careers was the fact that you know we need to be throwing everything we can at this problem and when I look at some of the stuff coming out from NPPC, we’re focusing on the Visa issue, when we think of the H2 Visa changed, that’s gonna solve all of our labor issues. And I’m not sure that’s exactly the right approach. We also need to learn how to recruit and do things differently. So, we need to brainstorm together. We need to have a lot of different initiatives and thoughts. And hopefully this episode, or my other programs, is igniting those discussions within your systems, within our industry to make it better. So, stay tuned, we’re gonna have one more episode in our special series on the labor issue in the swine industry.



Before we go, we wanna thank our sponsors again.  Swine Nutrition Management, NutraSign, Pig Progress and The Sunswine Group.  Don’t forget to join our Facebook the Global Swine Professionals.  And as always, if you get a chance, hug a pig for me today.