Recruiting key engineers and executives in the plastic business is competitive. Conventional wisdom says the way to attract the best people is to offer an attractive salary and the promise of a long career.
This approach does not necessarily cut it anymore.
As an executive recruiter with 21 years of experience placing professionals in the plastics industry, I have noticed an important new hiring trend. Geographical requirements are becoming more significant than compensation among high-value, knowledgeable workers willing to accept changes in employment. More than 80 percent of the executives that J.H. Dugan & Associates placed in the last two years had geographical preferences that outweighed salary requirements.
Personnel departments, to fulfill their strategic role, must understand this trend and reflect it in their hiring practices. These new dynamics shape today's career-decision environment:
Compensation. An increase in compensation used to be the top motivating factor. Success still is measured by the size of the paycheck, but quality of life now rivals compensation.
Corporate longevity. Job longevity does not factor as highly in today's career decisions. Instead of preparing for the next promotion, many are preparing for the next job. The consulting mentality that makes some employees so valuable also makes them hard to retain. This is an era of academic and intellectual migrants who are content to offer their services year by year. Only stock programs, incentive compensation and vesting can ensure loyalty.
Geographic location. Placement studies often examine accepted salaries by geographic location. Yet a growing share of employees will not accept any job if the location is not right. Increasingly, employees value quality of life and maximizing their leisure time as much as the paycheck.
Many already are located in a region or location they favor and it is difficult to get them to move. Reasons for this include family situations such as dual careers, a desire to stay close to an aging parent, or not wanting to uproot children.
People will move for an increased quality of life. The trend favors metropolitan locations. An example of a top location is Chicago, which is centrally located and offers cultural diversity and very good quality of life. Other examples are Atlanta, Boston, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Charlotte, N.C.
Employers need to plan for their employees' geographical requirements. Enlightened self-interest tells you to ask yourself, ``Does my company offer the geographic diversity it needs to remain competitive?'' Do you have openings in areas that meet a prospect's requirements?
Many prominent names in the plastic resin manufacturing business are located in predominantly remote and rural locations — such as Bartlesville, Okla.; Kingsport, Tenn.; Midland, Mich.; Midland, Texas; and Pittsfield, Mass. Yet these companies need the best-in-class personnel to win in the market.
Companies can meet the challenge of geographic diversity in several ways. Smart companies are moving out of unfortunate locations. They also are extending the corporate footprint using satellite research and development centers to serve their clientele. New development centers can be justified in proximity to important end users and original equipment manufacturers.
Forward-looking companies also are planning for significant growth in ``virtual'' home offices. They are looking at ways to decentralize certain positions to improve conditions and retain key workers. Is it reasonable to ask a corporate rising star to move from a field assignment back to headquarters in undesirable and traffic-congested areas, and expect them to be content?
Instituting a virtual-home-office program extends corporate geographic boundaries, making a company more attractive by offering new and flexible work structures. In short, it improves recruiting.
Remaining competitive in the plastics industry requires an understanding that the better the talent desired, the more a company needs to focus on geographical requirements. Sure, offer a good salary and a career, but don't expect that alone to win. Build in the right location, and they will come.
Dugan ([email protected]) is a plastics industry recruiter based in Carmel, Calif.