Personnel Management Research in Agribusiness

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Personnel Management Research in Agribusiness

Vera Bitsch Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics Michigan State University, 306 Agriculture Hall, East Lansing, Michigan, 48824 Tel: +517-353-9192, Fax: +517-432-1800, bitsch@msu.edu

Paper presented at the 19th Annual World Forum and Symposium of the International Food and Agribusiness Management Association, Budapest, Hungary, June 20-23, 2009

Acknowledgements This study was supported by the USDA Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, Hatch project #0191628. The author would also like to thank the Elton R. Smith Chair in Food & Agricultural Policy at Michigan State University for supporting the participation at the IFAMA World Forum and Symposium.

Copyright 2009 by Vera Bitsch. All rights reserved. Readers may make verbatim copies of this document for non-commercial purposes by any means, provided that this copyright notice appears on all such copies.

Personnel Management Research in Agribusiness (Executive Summary) One of the challenges faced by agribusinesses in the 21st century is the attraction, motivation, and retention of sufficient and qualified labor. However, personnel management research has mostly focused on other industries. Accordingly, agribusiness managers have little to rely on, when developing personnel policies and procedures. Once a business has grown beyond the labor capacity of the immediate family, personnel management becomes an issue and practices developed for large corporations do not always scale down well to smaller businesses or may not fit the agribusiness environment. This paper reviews the foci and results of personnel management research in the United States and in Canada, but results are likely applicable beyond these two countries. The analysis concentrates on publications analyzing personnel management publications, largely excluding labor market, immigration, and similar analyses. The unit of analysis is the business, not the market, society, or other institution. The review covers agribusiness and agricultural economics journals, and also animal science and horticultural science journals. Research reports and conference papers are included when accessible. With few exceptions, personnel management was virtually absent from agribusiness and agricultural economics research before 1990. Since then research methods cover the full range from in-depth, unstructured interviews and group discussions, through interview or moderator guide based approaches, up to fully structured surveys. Several broadly based results are emerging. First, many agribusiness managers perceive their personnel management competencies as a weakness, in particular during periods of organizational growth. Second, experienced managers typically have an adequate conceptual frame of the personnel management functions, but with respect to the details gaps and misconceptions persist. Third, the peculiar circumstances of agribusiness and farm work require specific skill sets and beginning managers could benefit from targeted training. Fourth, although compensation is important, employees’ job satisfaction and retention can be increased with inexpensive measures, such as feedback and appreciation. Fifth, the relationship between personnel management practices and financial success measures is complicated and difficult to assess. Few personnel management studies have been able to provide evidence of a substantial relationship between any particular personnel management practice and profit, or even productivity.

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Personnel Management Research in Agribusiness Problem Statement One of the challenges faced by many agribusinesses and farms in the 21st century is the attraction, motivation, and retention of sufficient and qualified labor. Although this problem is more pronounced in industrialized and developed economies, growing and transitional economies, including China, also face a lack of interest in agricultural work....
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