Employers need to get on the front foot with market-savvy remuneration, to fight other industries for the top talent.
Increased demand for agricultural products from Asia over the next 25 years means Australian agribusinesses will face skills shortages. As a result, younger workers must be encouraged to enter the sector and remuneration will become a key battleground in the fight to attract and retain top talent.
Our review of agribusiness salaries from 1995 through to 2015, using Agricultural Appointments’ own internal records and industry data, shows that growth in salaries in a number of key areas has been substantially slower than average wages in other industries.
The worst performing salaries are for farm managers, which have grown at just 29% of average wage growth across Australia over the 20-year period. Product managers are not much better off: their wages have grown at 34% of average wage growth in the same period.
This under performance is probably due to a range of factors, in particular the highly variable nature of agricultural production and the more recent strong Australian dollar.
The remuneration data shows two-tiers within the agribusiness sector, with more rapid salary growth in the higher technical areas such as agronomists, technical sales, technical manager and quality assurance managers. These are becoming more highly valued as agribusiness and agrifood industries strive to present strong technical arguments and services to their increasingly sophisticated customer base.
Farm production now utilises far more technology and complex machinery to drive productivity growth, and these changes have placed a higher value on technical skills
Our data shows agronomists have recorded the strongest salary growth since 1995 – nearly 20% greater than the average wage. This reflects both the increased technical requirements for these roles and also the substantial skills shortages relative to the number of available roles. This is due to the ongoing decline in the number of agricultural science graduates from Australian universities.
Salary growth for farm managers has lagged behind other positions and is even below the rate of inflation. These roles have probably borne the brunt of the strong prevalence of drought over most of the period, but this is an area of tightening skills supply, which will change this situation rapidly in the near future.
With the emerging skills shortage in Australian agriculture it is imperative that companies have a method for attracting and retaining new graduates. This takes a significant amount of thought and preparation, and a lot of groundwork in attending university career events to showcase your company. Starting remuneration must be market-competitive but training and mentoring young graduates is the key to both making them productive and to retaining them in the long term.
In our experience very few companies have a strategic HR plan around this area.
CEO’s, General Managers and farm business owners will have to increasingly understand the remuneration benchmarks for their particular area of interest. It will be necessary to structure both short- and long-term incentive plans to attract skilled people in the future. This may be a challenge, given Agribusiness has historically lagged behind the non-agri sector in implementing effective incentive plans.