Seizing attractive trends, and capitalizing on strong markets, is important. But that alone won't allow us to reach our goals.
Our competitors, after all, stand to benefit from the very same factors. They are eying the same horizons, pursuing the same opportunities and, yes, laying claim to the same customers.
To fulfill our ambitions, John Deere must decisively outdistance the competition in any number of respects:
…Such as developing a more thorough understanding of customers…finding ways to introduce innovative products at lower price points…establishing a first-rate distribution and after-market support system in all markets…and, of vital importance, ensuring we attract top-flight talent throughout the world.
Indeed, there's nothing that will have more impact on John Deere's future than a supremely talented, committed and motivated workforce – such as our 65,000 employees and leaders.
Everywhere we operate, we seek to attract the best talent…then to develop and deploy that talent for the ultimate benefit of our customers and investors.
We've adopted disciplined processes to accomplish this aim and exacting metrics to stay on track.
There's always room for improvement, of course. But we're making further progress in categories such as hiring preferred candidates, finding challenging developmental assignments, and building employee engagement.
Engagement is a particular priority because it is a key driver of performance, innovation and growth – all essential to carrying out our strategic plans.
We aspire to achieve world-class levels of employee engagement, as defined by the results of our all-employee survey, which normally takes place every two years.
I'm pleased to say our index score has been moving up and we're hopeful this will be the year our engagement goal is attained.
We also stress developing the right kind of leaders – those who share our values and have the drive and determination to help fulfill our mission of serving those linked to the land.
That's why we take leadership development so seriously…and do everything possible to assist our people in making the most of their skills and realizing their potential.
Among other steps, we've added rigor to our succession planning processes to ensure we have talented leaders in place throughout the world for our present and future needs.
A major objective is developing indigenous, or regional, talent to help manage our non-U.S. operations and extend the John Deere brand to a wider global audience.
I'm proud to note that, partly as a result of this emphasis, Deere has an increasing number of extremely capable nationals serving in key management roles across Asia, Europe and South America.
The way we see it, bringing more diversity to our workforce, including our leadership ranks, makes our business goals that much more attainable.
It fosters a richer global mindset and helps us achieve a deeper understanding of our customers -- a group that itself has a wider range of backgrounds and needs than ever before.
In closing, it's clear we live in an age of uncertainty. Whether fiscal, economic, social, or political, uncertainty abounds.
Such an environment, however, does nothing to dim our optimism, or dampen our enthusiasm, concerning our own company's future.
We're as certain as ever about Deere's own businesses and future prospects.
We're sure about the quality and reliability of our products and services, and the talent and commitment of our employees, dealers and suppliers.
We're sure as well about the capacity and efficiency of our production facilities, and the depth and focus of our strategy.
We're equally confident that as the world's population grows in size and affluence, opportunities will increasingly emerge for Deere to deliver value to our investors and other constituents – value that we believe will multiply and endure in the years ahead.
For all these reasons, we have no doubt about the wisdom of the company's present course. And it's why we say, with pride, purpose and deep conviction, that John Deere's best days are still to come!
On behalf of the entire management team, I'd like to express my appreciation to everyone for your continued encouragement and support.