Smithfield Foods Innovates Employee Development to Improve Retention

( Smithfield )

Smithfield Foods has updated its recruitment and retention program to cater to modern job applicants. The program is part of the company’s sustainability initiative and features a focused internship program, a rotation schedule for new graduates to explore the company and a college recruitment program.

With the USDA reporting an annual 22,500-job shortfall for the agriculture industry, agricultural employers nationwide may draw inspiration from Smithfield’s bold initiative. Smithfield brings years of experience, with more than 54,000 employees around the world, and boasts a retention rate higher than the industry average, according to the People section of Smithfield’s Sustainability Report. While many employers bemoan the unique recruitment approach required to reach millennial audiences, Smithfield has taken the challenge head-on.

Talent Development: Smithfield targets potential leaders through its Emerging Leaders program, which prepares selected employees to take on increased responsibility. The Smithfield Leads program has offered more than 200 participants a 12-month curriculum with classroom training, team projects, and executive briefings. Additionally, the Manufacturing Excellence: Understanding Yields, Labor, and Quality program gives frontline managers a deeper understanding of Smithfield’s full business operations. Online classes in leadership and public speaking are also offered to office employees.

Mentorship: Last year, 390 mentors and mentees participated in the ACHIEVEmentorship Program, which matches employees based on common interests. The program was so successful that 92% of participants said they would recommend the program to others.

Exploration: Recent college graduates are given two years to rotate through different aspects of Smithfield operations through its Career Foundations program. Additionally, college students can explore specific business divisions through a 10-week internship program, which welcomed more than 40 students in 2018.

Recruitment & Diversity: Smithfield has become more deliberate in recruitment through its Campus Coordinator Program, which places Smithfield employees at recruitment events. It also increased focus on historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU). Business Resource Groups (BRGs) host speaking and networking events for Smithfield to engage with its employees. The Women’s Connect BRG has been so successful Smithfield has added another BRG, the Black Professional Network to build a network system amongst minority groups. Additionally, Smithfield’s NEXT group targets millennials by adding age and thought process to its definition of diversity, with events for interns and a volunteer program with a local YMCA.

Recognition: Each year, employees are recognized for exemplifying the company’s guiding principles of Responsibility, Operational Excellence, and Innovation (ROI) through the ROI Awards program. Employees are eligible to apply or be nominated across the company and receive recognition from the president and CEO as well as a financial award.

Health: Smithfield subsidizes Fitbit™ purchases as part of a year-long program where employees earn a $600 wellness bonus if 100 points are earned. Smithfield has also hired a full-time personal trainer for employees, holds weight-loss competitions and hosts blood pressure and cholesterol screenings. “Lunch-and-learn” events cover healthy living topics such as stress management and weight control. Additionally, employee assistance programs exist for smoking cessation, healthy pregnancy, and diabetes management.

Recruiting and retaining new employees requires commitment and creativity. As the American agriculture industry meets an annual 22,500-job shortfall and incorporates millennials’ specialized interests, innovation is a necessity. The People section of Smithfield Foods’ Sustainability Report outlines specific plans to create conditions for employees to flourish. Good employees are valuable but can be difficult to find. Learn how Smithfield is taking a new initiative to ensure a solid workforce for years to come.


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