Joe Produce Search's Rex Lawrence Discusses Current Workforce Climate

Joe Produce Search's Rex Lawrence Discusses Current Workforce Climate

SACRAMENTO, CA - For the first time in both our industry and the grander U.S., if the capability of working remotely is present, it is active. This flip in the workforce, amplified by changes in demand and, in some sectors, massive hirings to meet that demand, prompted me to reach out to Rex Lawrence, Founder and President of Joe Produce Search, for his insights on fresh produce positions and operations.

Melissa De Leon Chavez: Rex, with more than 30 years in the industry, what is your initial takeaway from what is currently happening in the produce workforce?

Rex Lawrence, Founder and President, Joe Produce SearchRex Lawrence: This is a unique period and still evolving. Business is still moving forward for our clients, and most are balancing working in today's new environment, while at the same time, still having an eye toward the future.

We are all experiencing the enormous challenge of having transitioned many jobs out of the office and into remote. The cool thing here is that we're all in this together. So, the crying and/or laughing kids, barking dogs, and other sounds of home life are there for us all, and we all get it. No sweat!

MDC: Joe Produce has also transitioned to remote, so you are experiencing that firsthand! On the business side, are you seeing any fluctuations in employment?

RL: We're finding that many companies and people are settling in after a period of massive adjustment to the transition of working remotely. Job seekers are applying, and our resume inflow is solid as job seekers look to the future and seek out new opportunities.

Conversations with job seekers tells me that some people are thinking proactively, and looking at new opportunities. Others are thinking defensively, and updating their resumes themselves or using our professional resume writing service.

On the other side of the equation—employers that is—some produce companies are still hiring. In most instances, not all, the personnel needs they had before continue to be the needs they have now and/or soon. While things did initially pause, we’re seeing them get back into their groove.

Rex Lawrence, Founder of Joe Produce Search, details how remote work has shifted expectations within the ag workforce

MDC: What has surprised you as you have seen that happen?

RL: Some clients have commented that it's an opportune time to hire great candidates, while other companies may be trimming back. We have some clients who would entertain hiring remotely located people before, and now all of a sudden they’re seeing an opportunity to hire great talent who will work remotely...long-term.

At this stage, we see that people are converting to "job seekers" a bit faster than some companies' comfort levels in this new paradigm. The exciting change that seems to be evolving now, is that our "supply" of candidates is increasing.

The last couple of years has seen demand for solid candidates exceed supply. I don’t see that changing in the long term, but short term, and perhaps I’m talking weeks or months during this crisis, the supply/demand ratio has shifted.

Unlike some other "non essential industries," produce and food have to keep moving, so just as soon as management and HR teams get relatively comfortable in this new paradigm, they can take advantage of this better balance of supply and demand between people and open jobs. Our team of Executive Search Consultants (recruiters) are busy right now!

The final thought Rex leaves with me is one of the most important: We can't control the situation; we can only control our perspective and responses. With the right attitude, adaptability, and creativity, we can see our way through the challenging times we’ve been presented. And from what Rex shared with me, we can focus on the lemons, or focus on a new recipe for lemonade.

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