"It's like a river: It's going all the time and you have to jump in," said Dennis Gros, founder and president of Gros Executive Recruiters. He said many plastics companies are competing for the same talent.
Sometimes the recruiting river runs fast. For example, Gros said changes in quality standards for automotive suppliers caused a spike in demand for quality managers, resulting in several shortages.
Gros and Margee Kaczmarek, chief human resources officer of Plastics News publisher Crain Communications Inc. of Detroit, gave forum attendees some nuts-and-bolts hiring and search tips.
Kaczmarek said people expect to change jobs more frequently now, so even though you can attract the best employees, you have to keep recruiting to refill the pipeline. Constantly be recruiting and looking for the best talent, Kaczmarek said. "There is nothing more fun than working with fun, hard-working folks."
Kaczmarek and Gros spoke at two different sessions at the Executive Forum, held March 3-6 in Tampa.
Gros Executive Recruiters is based in Nashville, Tenn. The search firm exhibited at the forum, and staff members wore safari hats and khakis during the conference.
The hunt for talent can be expensive and time-consuming, but it's important, according to Gros.
He said it's important to write a clear, updated job description. "Every time you hire, even if the job definition is the same, the emphasis is going to be a little bit different," he said.
He suggested writing a help-wanted ad from the point of view of a person looking for a position. A job seeker is attracted by three things: the perception of your company, the job itself and why he or she is going to be important to the company. Give an idea of the company's mission.
Gros suggested companies be open-minded, and "lay out that welcome mat very broadly."
Begin by compiling a list potential hires. Then sift down to a smaller, more manageable number of candidates.
"The sourcing aspect of recruiting, candidate sourcing, is like a sales process," he said. "In a sales process, if you needed a new customer by the end of the year, would you start talking to one company? No. You'd start with your list, at least 100 companies."
He also likened the hiring process to dating — don't wait too long to call candidates back.
Your goal is to have the candidate ready to go from the first day, charged up and excited, Gros said. He suggested not having the direct supervisor negotiate starting pay, but instead use a representative of the supervisor.
"Never make an offer that has not already been accepted in advance by your candidate," he said.
And get it on paper, rather than just a verbal agreement.
"That limits the possibility that the candidate is going to reject or maybe renegotiate the offer," Gros said.
Crain HR chief Kaczmarek said a strong corporate culture is very important. When people stay with a company, that can help a firm weather economic downturns. And they will really care about their co-workers, she said.
Kaczmarek had a variety of HR jobs in market research firms and manufacturing. And she worked at McDonald's and waited tables, learning from every job. The best employees will not be afraid to try new things and be held accountable, she said.
From management's perspective, it's important for employees to be flexible and creative.
She said management should be transparent, sharing information with employees, especially when times are tough. "Every company goes through ups and downs. ... That is business, that's companies, that's life. What you want is for your best employees to stay loyal to you in those tough times."
Kaczmarek urged plastics executives to consider the full spectrum of potential employees, including people who are semi- retired.
She also suggested companies have a policy of paying current employees for referrals.