To ensure farm businesses have the best talent and are most reflective of their customers and the marketplace, it’s important to emphasize diversity as part of the hiring process, says Shannon Kellner, AVP of Merck Animal Health’s livestock team.
People with diverse backgrounds—including differences in age, gender and race—bring rich perspective to the table that can better inform how farms operate.
“We really believe in that collective thought process and diverse inputs that really give us the opportunity to grow and be very successful as a business,” explains Kellner, who participated in a panel titled “Scaling Diversity & Inclusion Across U.S. Agriculture” as part of the recent Farm Journal Field Days virtual conference.
(To watch the diversity panel, register for your free Farm Journal Field Days account, then navigate to the Farming For Today + Tomorrow Pavilion.)
As one of just three Black CEOs at the helm of a Fortune 500 company, Merck’s Kenneth Frazier leads by example, Kellner says, creating a culture that values all people. Frazier spoke publicly in an MSNBC interview this summer highlighting how being bused away from inner city Philadelphia to a different school system changed the trajectory of his career. Kellner notes that experience has led Frazier to position Merck as a company whose global scale can be a force for good in creating a more equitable world and business environment.
Farmers seeking to accelerate their own commitment to diversity and talent can start by thinking about their intern and hiring pipeline, Kellner says. Merck has updated its internship programs from a one-way approach of training young people into a two-way dialogue that allows Merck employees to learn—and identify talent they want to bring into the company full time. They’re hiring more people fresh out of college than waiting for them to get five to seven years of experience elsewhere.
“We’ve started to create positions we’ve never had before to bring younger individuals in to help us, either specifically in the areas of technology or through the intern program, to find a talent know you can’t let go because they’re a rock star,” Kellner explains.
“Resources are starting to become more prominent and available,” he says.