Written by B. Lynn Gordon (former SDSU Extension Agricultural Leadership Specialist).
ABC Farm: Generational Makeup
As we continue with the series on ‘Agricultural Generational Communications’, we introduced you to a mock farm called “ABC Farm” consisting of senior generation, 71-yr-old (John) who started the farming business, his son (Tom) a 51-yr-old, farming alongside his dad for nearly 25 years, and grandson/son 24-year old (Brandon) who returned to the farm after completing college. This farm example will be used to provide tips on working across generations in agriculture.
Millennial Generation: Traits & Skills
This column will focus on gaining a better understanding of Brandon who represents the millennial generation. Millennials are born from 1980-2000. At ABC Farm it’s important for the two senior generations to understand Brandon (the millennial), and the value and differences his involvement now brings to the farm.
Two millennials featured recently in Progressive Dairyman captured the essence of the viewpoint of this generational group. Here are some ideas they shared for us to know about them:
- Millennials ask a lot of questions and seek answers.
Millennials are inquisitive. They are not afraid to ask questions, but they expect to get answers as they seek to improve themselves. To the senior generation it may seem like Millennials ask endless questions and this can cause tension in the relationship. But Millennials ask others to be patient with them. The younger generation also sends emails and texts, expecting a response to these as well. Again presenting a challenge to their elders who may not be comfortable or proficient with emails and texts. The elder generations tend to believe texting and email communication is anti-social. Millennials however, grew up in the height of computer usage, the internet and now texting, and in order to fit in with their own generation they had to use these communication methods. It’s best to determine what will be the preferred method of communication or acceptable method in your farm operation. A compromise may consist of having some face-face; some texting and some email communication.
- Millennials know technology.
Building on discussion of communication methods, Millennials as some say, were raised with a computer in their hand. They are very adept to technology as they have worked on computers since middle-school or earlier and have mastered it. With huge advancements in technology in agriculture, a millennial can be highly beneficial to your farming operation. Let them take the lead with technology and don’t hold them back just because you don’t want to change. Everyone is going to bring a talent to the operation and if the millennial can bring their comfort and knowledge of technology don’t hold them back.
- Millennials are motivated by passions, not just money.
Many think millennials are focused only on money, but that’s not the case. Pay is obviously important to them, but they seek a connection to their career. They want to get up each day and do something they are passionate about, something where they can make a difference. Others of Brandon’s age, aren’t afraid to put all their efforts out there — note to elder generation, don’t hold them back. Provide them with support, understanding, and freedom to flourish.
- Millennials seek fair treatment and feedback.
As the youngest generation in a three-generation farm family, they obviously know they don’t have 50-years-experience like their grandfather, but they need to know they will be treated with respect, and not just as a hired hand. Young people can find agricultural jobs relatively easily due to the growth in the industry. Keep in mind that your son may work at places where they provide health insurance, time off, etc. If your farming operation cannot offer these benefits, is there something you can offer to balance this out? Millennials are competent, tech-savvy individuals yet need to hear feedback (positive or negative) on how they are doing. Millennials need to hear that their contributions are helping achieve the greater whole, and this provides them with the motivation to continue to improve.
The Bottom Line
These are generalizations not specifically representative of each millennial, but some food for thought if you are working with a millennial in your farm/ranch operation or agri-business. The bottom line is communicate with them to learn more about how you can achieve the best working relationship.