Having the opportunity to attend dealer events lets me attach faces to the names of precision farming specialists who I may have only known as a voice on the phone or a through a series of email exchanges.

Attending Ag Leader Technology’s annual dealer meeting in Des Moines, Iowa, in mid-December, I had the chance to shake hands and talk technology with several dealers who I knew either by dealership name or reputation, but had never met in person.

At the outset of the 2-day meeting, Ag Leader officials noted that they anticipated a record crowd, many of whom were first time attendees. Talking with a few of the fresher faces at the event, some said they were there to get a tutorial on the manufacturer’s new products set for release in 2014, while others simply wanted to network.

But the most interesting reason for attending came from an experienced precision farming manager from a dealership in Iowa.

“I’m here to headhunt,” he told me. “I’m looking to steal employees from companies and see who’s available and who’s not happy.”

As I’ve written about in the past, finding quality precision farming talent is difficult and dealerships are having a hard time keeping pace with customer demand, much less expanding their precision interests, without adding staff.

So what better forum to target and pursue talent — face-to-face — than a dealer event?

“I’m going back to guys who are secure and have been doing this a long time,” the precision manager from Iowa says, “and see if they are interested in making a change.”

He probably wasn’t the only one. It’s a safe assumption that other dealers at the meeting were scouting for attractive hires or at the very least, asking their colleagues if they knew where they could find some additional help. 

“A lot of us are all in the same position,” another Iowa dealer told me. “Realistically, we could use four or five new precision employees.”

Recruiting and retention of precision specialists has become increasingly competitive with the scarcity of trained employees in the job market. This trend is likely to continue for the foreseeable future and it will be interesting to see if there is movement among precision farming specialists from one dealership to another.

It’s certainly a seller’s market, which could mean that dealerships will have to make sure they are keeping their current precision employees satisfied or risk losing them to the competition.