Labor issues remain a top priority for many plastics processors. Finding production workers has been difficult, and filling the management ranks can be a challenge as well.
That's where professionals like David Peterson come in. Peterson has more than 20 years of recruiting experience. He's a managing partner with Direct Recruiters Inc. in Solon, Ohio.
Peterson's recruiting work has focused on plastics, packaging and specialty chemicals. He's been active with the Society of Plastic Engineers, the Plastics Industry Association and the Cleveland Chapter of the Ohio Recruiters Association.
Peterson, who was a speaker at the 2017 Plastics News Executive Forum, recently took some time to provide guidance on the current hiring market.
Q: What are the main challenges to hiring right now for plastics or other manufacturing companies?
Peterson: The main challenges to hiring in the plastics industry include low unemployment and lack of specialized industry-qualified candidates, as well as many candidates getting multiple offers. Overall, we are seeing fierce competition over the same top candidates. This is causing unprecedented and unexpected retention issues for companies, which leads to additional needs to hire new talent. In the C-Suite, many candidates have robust long-term incentive (LTI) programs making it difficult to land them.
Q: Is COVID still impacting hiring? Has the situation improved at all?
Peterson: COVID is still impacting hiring, although the situation continues to improve. However, this is a fluid situation. Right now, most companies are able to conduct in-person interviews at their plant locations, often without a mask or other precautions. Likewise, candidates are able and willing to use air travel to get to these interviews. Candidates have been asking less about a company's vaccine policy and companies are asking less if candidates are vaccinated.
One trend that's remaining is hybrid work. We have observed that candidates are seeking that type of work situation more often, so companies are adapting to offer those options if possible.
Q: Have employers changed what they're looking for in job candidates? Are job seekers looking for different things now?
Peterson: Plastics and other manufacturing companies are still seeking transformational leaders but are trying to adjust things such as title and compensation to attract the person they want. For example, companies are upgrading director titles to vice president or VP titles to C-Suite (if possible). We're seeing aggressive salary offers, more sign-on bonuses and hybrid work situations than ever before.
Often, there's only one chance to make the best offer possible, which includes compensation, title, work environment, etc. We tend to see private equity-backed portfolio companies being very aggressive and quick to address the issues I mentioned.
Q: How is the current economic situation going to affect hiring?
Peterson: In our experience, hiring remains robust in the current economic climate. We're all hearing talk of a potential recession. Will it be a full recession? A right-sizing of the economy? Regardless, of any economic situation, the companies that hire the best talent always win.