Agriculture News

February 17, 2016  

Purdue research report gives insights on talent management

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Food and agricultural business leaders can use the results from a recent Purdue University study to better understand and manage talent within their organizations.

The Performance Management in Agribusiness Survey was conducted by the Center for Food and Agricultural Business. It explored trends in performance management specifically within food and agricultural businesses and was the basis for the National Conference for Agribusiness in November. The survey, conducted in 2015, garnered responses from more than 600 agribusiness professionals.

A themes report based on the survey and the center's talent management model explores six key areas: strategy and talent requirements, talent acquisition, performance management, learning and development, engagement and retention, and succession planning. It is available for free download at

"Survey respondents confirmed what we suspected: Performance management matters," said Michael Gunderson, Purdue associate professor of agricultural economics and associate director of the Center for Food and Agricultural Business. "But, historically, economics researchers haven't really focused on understanding the roles of individuals in the economy or within the business environment.

"Businesses are made up of individual people, so we can't ignore their roles, their individual differences or the ways management can successfully lead the people within their organizations."

The goals of the survey included assessing how business leaders grade themselves on performance management and how employees grade their companies' overall performance management strategies, and understanding the links between these strategies and employee performance.

Employees responding to the survey said they were motivated by challenging goals, said Gunderson, the survey's principal investigator.

"Notably, it was employees, rather than managers or executives, who were more likely to respond that goals weren't challenging enough," he said. "This suggests that if there is a question regarding the challenge, managers might push employees a bit further."

Another key survey finding is that managers in some areas have difficulty finding the right balance of managing performance based on outcomes versus employee behaviors.

"Some managers struggle in conducting performance management with only results in mind, given that sometimes luck can play a role in outcomes," Gunderson said. "In our survey, sales, marketing and human resources professionals were much more likely to use a combination of outcome and behavioral assessment relative to finance and operations professionals."

Other researchers involved in the center's talent management initiatives and included in the themes report are:

* Jay Akridge, Glenn W. Sample Dean of Purdue Agriculture.

* Karen Grabow, organizational psychologist and principal of Grabow Consulting.

* Mike Boehlje, Purdue distinguished professor of agricultural economics.

* Scott Downey, Purdue associate professor of agricultural economics and associate director of the Center for Food and Agricultural Business.

* Allan Gray, Purdue professor of agricultural economics, director of the Center for Food and Agricultural Business, and Land O’Lakes chair for food and agribusiness.

* Masi Keshavarz, research project manager for the Center for Food and Agricultural Business. 

Writer: Jennifer Stewart-Burton, 765-496-6032, 

Source: Michael Gunderson, 765-496-2010,

Agricultural Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Keith Robinson,
Agriculture News Page

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