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Execs: Go on offensive to recruit talent

By: Bill Bregar

April 3, 2013

TAMPA, FLA. — To attract the best talent, executives need to clearly communicate their companies’ core values, encourage involvement in the community and go where the candidates are looking — online — four industry officials said at the Plastics News Executive Forum.

Executives Philip Katen, Doreen Lettau and Shawn Reilley speak in this PN forum video.

Leaders of Plastikos Inc., an Erie, Pa., custom injection molder, “strive to build a team of all-stars” in every position and every shift, President Philip Katen said. You have to tell the company story to attract new hires, especially the top performers, he said.

“Every company has that unique story. It’s comprised of the collective experiences of the larger team, its history and its values. So explore that history and compile your story,” Katen said. “Your story should show the unique combination of strengths that translate into your core expertise.

The need to recruit new talent to the plastics industry, to replacing aging workers, was a common theme during the Executive Forum, held March 3-6 in Tampa. The average age of a highly skilled U.S. factory worker is 56, said Mary Scheibel, founder of Trefoil Group, a marketing communications firm in Milwaukee. Trefoil recently launched a program for helping companies hire and retain skilled workers, said Scheibel, who moderated a panel discussion on that topic.

Scheibel said companies need to start by looking at their websites. “Pretend you’re 20. And ask yourselves if those websites really do what they need to do, to really depict the passion you have for your business and the innovation that lies inside your business,” she said.

Cincinnati  ma­- chinery maker Mi­lacron LLC has beefed up the recruitment section of its website, including videos where employees who have moved up the ranks speak directly to future hires, said Shawn Reilley, group vice president of sales and marketing.

“Be where your candidates are,” Reilley said, including the Internet and at area schools.

Dickten Masch Plastics LLC, a thermoplastics and thermoset molder based in Nashotah, Wis., has become an international company through fast growth and acquisitions. Management needed to hire good people and retain them to ramp up, said Doreen Lettau, vice president of market and business development.

Lettau said Dickten Masch executives worked to create a culture of trust and open communication. “We determined we were going to be a culture of servant leadership,” she said.

“A lot of companies say they’re doing that, but there’s a lot that goes into it. As leaders, we check the ego at the door. We have adult-to-adult relationships with employees.”

Katen said it’s important to spell out a company’s values. “Who is Plastikos? And why should a candidate want to work on our team? Why should Plastikos be their first choice?” he said.

The best employees will also be recruited by other companies. “An effective recruiting and retention strategy has to rest on that solid cultural foundation,” he said. It gives employees another reason to stay.

The industry officials said it’s important to become active in the community, to help attract good new people and give a shot of adrenalin to your existing employees.

“We have made it a priority and annual goal for senior leaders to serve on charities and be involved in the community,” Reilley said.