Seed World

A Blueprint for Attracting Young Talent

Kevin Falk is Corteva’s integrated field scientist based in Manitoba.

Germination’s first entry in our Top Workplaces for Young Talent list strives to create a six-point blueprint for creating a great place to work.

Kevin Falk’s recruitment with Corteva Agriscience was originally spurred by the involvement that Corteva’s legacy company Pioneer had in the Plant Science Symposium Series with universities around the world.

He’s attended these symposiums as a student at Indiana’s Purdue University, at Iowa State University as well as the University of Manitoba.

He was also involved with the organizing of the Iowa State symposium for four years and asked to speak as a guest speaker. It was there he met Tabare Abadie, Corteva’s academic relations manager and research fellow. They kept in touch.

In 2018, Falk was named a National Association of Plant Breeders (NAPB) Borlaug Scholar. His mentor in the program was Dave Bubeck, Corteva’s research director for global breeding and North American regional crops based in Iowa.

Falk would also go on to meet and become friends with other Corteva scientists including Jessie Alt, Corteva’s global wheat lead. Falk is now Corteva’s integrated field scientist based in Manitoba.

“I know that Corteva has specific talent recruitment personnel, but my experience was influenced by the people of Corteva and the culture as a whole. Tabare, David, Jessie and others all took time to show an interest in me as an eager young man wanting to be involved in feeding the world,” Falk says.

“They don’t recruit you. They build a relationship with you so when opportunities arise, you are the first to apply.”

It’s a philosophy that Vik Kail, Corteva’s HR lead for Canada, preaches each and every day. Kail is a self-described city boy who’s the architect of Corteva’s blueprint for a “modern workplace” and leading the movement to build it.

“I consider myself really lucky to be in this industry, and I want others to have that opportunity,” he says.

Nominated as a Top Workplace for Young Talent, Kail shared Corteva’s six-point plan to attract bright young people who want a future in ag — a plan that cultivates some key qualities Kail says are necessary for creating a modern workplace culture that puts personal development at the top of the priority list.

Kevin Falk is Corteva’s integrated field scientist based in Manitoba.

Trust & Transparency: “A lot comes down to good communication. Our executive team has become a lot more visible in the months after the creation of Corteva. Our president is very charismatic and down- to-earth. He builds a lot of trust himself, but the wider leadership being so visible to our workforce has really helped.”

Autonomy: “Young people value this. When they do the work, where they do it, how they go about doing it, and who they do it with — those are all important to them, especially in the new environment influenced by COVID.”

Modern Leadership: “Leadership is like the kitchen in this house we are trying to build. It’s at the centre of our blueprint. A lot of people leave a company not because of the organization but because of their supervisor. A young person is looking for mentorship, not a boss to tell them what to do.”

Positive Work Environment: “We celebrate our people. We have a really cool recognition program called Shine, a portal where you can recognize anyone in the company. We also have a wellness program and portal that provide resources, challenges and the opportunity for every employee to have their own fitness device. Then there’s our DAWN Network, which emphasizes disability awareness. Inclusion and diversity is key. People want to feel respected at work. It’s really as simple as that.”

Growth & Development: “Historically, people have believed that you need to keep furthering your education. We’re trying to change that paradigm. We find once people are done school it’s the on-the-job learning, projects, and assignments that are the most impactful, as opposed to just taking more classes. So, we strive to provide those opportunities.”

Modern, Mobile-Enabled HR Systems: “This is a focus of ours after the merger. People should be able to find their personal data, make updates, see their employee profile, job description, pay grade, and compensation. They need a sense of control and confidence in the accuracy and privacy of their own information. Privacy and confidentiality are a big deal.”

For Kail, finding and retaining the best young talent ensures that very same talent will stay with Corteva well into the future. It’s not just about hiring young people but investing in people who will spend their life with the company, Kail says.

“Another old paradigm is, ‘I have to be the expert.’ You should be molding others to be experts. That’s how you create a talented workforce that will stick with you and not leave because they feel like they’ve outgrown you.”