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Recruitment and Retention

Recruitment and Retention
What are the most significant changes a company can implement to recruit and retain talent in the material handling industry within a reasonable budget? How much would you allocate to the recruitment process if you chose to outsource?”- Allan Haynsworth, President Atlantic Lift Systems, Norfolk, VA.

Jerry Weidmann
Wisconsin Lift Truck Corp.
Brookfield, WI

The first order of business is to make sure you retain your current key employees. The retention strategies you use with your existing employees are the same strategies you will need to retain your new hires.
It is important to know your employees’ view toward the company, their managers and their careers within the company. My HR manager recommends conducting “stay interviews.” Ask them why they stay with you – what are we doing right, what keeps you coming back? And build on that. Accept negative feedback, too, so that areas that need work can be improved. Find out what their career aspirations are, what education or training they require and their view of their role within the company.

Before the recruitment starts, it is imperative to have a good job description and to understand the education, skills and attitude you are looking for. Hiring a new person requires a significant investment of time and money. Doing it right is critical to long-term success.
In our experience, our best source is through employee referrals. So, keeping employees happy enough that they feel compelled to recommend friends to us is critical – especially with service technicians. We provide an incentive to our employees to refer candidates to us.
Below are recommendations from our HR manager:
•  Keep an open mind to new recruitment sources. While social media is clearly becoming a larger factor in our world, it hasn’t yet replaced the more traditional recruiting methods. I think what’s needed is simply to not overlook it as an option. As difficult as recruiting is now, what’s important is to be open to going where you need to go to find the best candidate pool – and that can change with any recruitment effort.
o Job boards
o Schools
o Referrals (bonuses for referral as well as signing bonus)
o Agencies
o Social media
o Job fairs
o Apprentice or intern programs that can grow to become  your future permanent staff
o Monster.com etc.
•  How much to allocate? We use a lot of “temp to perm” scenarios through agencies to avoid paying the high fees for hiring directly through an agency. The upside to this is that both the employer and the temp have a trial period to see if the marriage works before signing on. The downside is the risk that the employee may get something permanent before the trial period is over (typically 90 days). We’ve usually been successful with this, though, we’ve rarely lost someone we wanted during a trial period. You can negotiate with the agency for the mark-up they get – we typically pay a mark-up of 50 percent of pay. During that 90 days we don’t have any benefits to pay. To attract them to hang in there during the trial period, though, we agree to put them on our insurance plans immediately at the end of the trial period (no additional waiting period), and if there is a holiday during the trial period, we will pay that holiday for the temporary employee.
•  When using a job board you can shop for best price – but the more popular boards will usually bring you more candidates. If you can buy multiple postings, your price comes down.
•  Recruiting through schools is usually free, if you are recruiting for a position that doesn’t require previous experience in that particular field and you are willing to work with someone who has the education, but not necessarily the experience.

Scott Hennie
Elite Supply Chain Solutions, LLC
Strongsville, OH

Although there appears to be a large labor pool available, finding the right talent to bring into our organization has been very difficult the past few years. I don’t know the reasons for this, but I do know that recruitment and retention have been difficult functions.
In my mind, we are talking about two different things. Retention is recognizing the players that you can’t afford to lose and providing them a work environment that makes them want to stay. This may involve things as simple as getting to know the person and his interests and providing an environment that allows him to pursue his interests; knowing his long-term goals and providing opportunities, such as assignments and training to achieve those goals; and finally, making sure that he is compensated fairly and can add to his compensation based on achieving performance goals.
Recruiting has been much more daunting for us. The first step is to clearly define the role you are looking to fill and to develop a “model recruit” to fill that role. That model should define the skills, experience, attitude, results, cognitive skills and habits you are looking for in the candidate. Once you’ve defined the “model recruit,” don’t settle. Make sure any candidate you make an offer to meets your criteria. Use tools such as Caliper, DISC and Meyers-Briggs to make sure what you think you see is what you are getting. Make sure the candidate will fit into your culture. You can teach technical skills; it is difficult to change behaviors.

Buddy Smith
Carolina Material Handling Services, Inc.
Columbia, SC

Your question is a great one and one that I believe is essential to building a successful business. In his book “Good to Great,” Jim Collins states that getting the right people in the right seats on the bus is one of the essential traits that great businesses have. In our dealership, we do not do a lot of outsourcing when it comes to recruitment; instead, we have installed a rigorous hiring process to ensure we bring in the right people. Our process consists of the following elements:
1.  As Steven Covey would say – Begin with the end in mind. We ask our hiring manager together with our human resource director to put in writing the qualifications, experience and, most importantly, the natural abilities that will be needed for this candidate to be successful. This step is done before the interview process begins.
2.  Our hiring manager and human resource director must also put in writing the answer to the question: “How will you know if the new employee is having success?” So, if we are looking for a salesperson, the success document might indicate that after six months we expect to see a certain number of calls weekly, a certain ratio of cold calls to total calls and a quote to call ratio. If we are seeking an administrative position, we might want to ensure that person can produce certain reports independently after a period of time. Again, we do this step before developing our pool of candidates because we are seeking a sense of clarity about who it is we want and how we will know that they are being successful.
3.  Now we are ready to develop a set of questions to use in the interview. Using the documents created, we develop a set of questions that will help us determine whether a candidate has the characteristics we are looking for.
4.  We are now ready to develop our pool of candidates. We do this by using the local media (newspapers), online sources such as Monster, and our own network of employees through internal posting and e-mail. When we use internal posting, we are not just looking for potential candidates from our employees, but also individuals they may know that would be a good fit.
5.  After screening resumes and applications, we select individuals for phone interviews. We conduct phone interviews prior to face-to-face meetings to get a more objective view of a prospect. Many times we get enamored with how a person is dressed or how they carry themselves, etc. By doing a phone interview first, we are able to be more objective by focusing on the content of what the person is saying.
6.  After the phone interviews, we are hoping to have a handful of candidates and we are now ready for faceto-face interviews. In our company, we do multiple level interviews, meaning a candidate will talk to the hiring manager, the human resource director, one or two members of senior management, one or two peer level interviews and, depending on the position, one or two individuals who would be reporting to this position.
7.  After the face-to-face interviews, we may do a second or third interview. Prior to making an offer we will conduct pre-hire testing. We do three online tests – job match, customer service and integrity, which measures honesty, work ethic, etc. Depending on the circumstances, we may do this step between phone and face-to-face interviews.
8.  After the testing and interviews, the interviewers will meet to discuss their views on the candidates. The hiring manager and human resource director will take this input into consideration before making an offer.

As you can see, this is a fairly involved process, but we feel it is absolutely worth the time in order to get the right people on board. I would also highly recommend “6 Habits of Highly Effective Managers,” by John Coffi. Chapter 3 of this book outlines a hiring process similar to the one I have described.

Al Boston
AK Material Handling Systems
Maple Grove, MN

I would start the most significant changes by putting a strategic plan in place about who you want to hire to make your company grow and prosper. MHEDA has sent to members a book written by John Cioffi and Ken Willig, “Six Habits of Highly Successful Managers.” I would recommend that you start with their outline of matching people to the position: define the position and the skills and abilities needed; find the person with the right skills and abilities; coach them to excellence. I believe if you have done a good job of these three steps that you and your prospective recruits will have a real good idea if they would be successful. As long as you are able to empower your talent to continue to grow in responsibility and reward, you will not have any problem retaining talent. Regarding doing this within a reasonable budget, I always prefer developing my company’s talent. I take the advice of Jeffery Gitomer and always test and hire positive people. If you start with a positive attitude and commit to providing training to excellence, there will always be profits to pay enough wages and benefits and, hopefully, a bonus.

I would allocate the funds to test recruits who have passed your interviews. MHEDA special services companies like Caliper will do the profile test to determine if the applicant fits your job. Also, plan on training programs offered though MHEDA U to bring them up to speed on industry standard practices along with any factory training necessary. In total $2,000 to $5,000 should be enough.

Doug Carson
VP Marketing/ Sales
Fallsway Equipment Company
Akron, OH

For recruiting, one of the most significant steps Fallsway Equipment Company took was to team up with one of our local technical colleges and one of our OEM partners to design and implement a two-year lift truck technician degree program. Our OEM partner Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America (MCFA) worked with our general manager and service director to provide both the suggested curriculum and training material to the local technical college. The college added to the curriculum to round out a complete two-year degree program. We actively recruit from the graduates of the program on an ongoing basis. Our service director and general manager continue to sit on the advisory board to the program and provide input on suggested improvements and changes.

I believe employee retention is a function of the complete culture that is developed within your company over time. Of course it is a given that your compensation package must be on par with competitive offerings to attract candidates, both for cash compensation and benefits. Factors beyond compensation are what make a company a great place to work and lead to long-term retention. At Fallsway Equipment Company, we believe the most important cultural characteristics (we call them core values) within a company are honesty, integrity, good business ethics, teamwork, accountability, promotion of a balanced lifestyle and respect. When promoted and practiced over time, these values become your company’s culture and it naturally leads to longevity in your workforce.

We haven’t outsourced our recruiting efforts in the past because we haven’t found it necessary. If we were to outsource our recruitment efforts, I anticipate that we wouldn’t allocate more than 15-20 percent of the annual compensation for the targeted position.

Chuck Frank
AHS Inc.
Cincinnati, OH

We do everything we can to promote a professional, yet family focused culture. We do not micro manage our team members. We do have a policy book and follow it when needed. We give a copy to all of our associates and ask them to read through and make sure they understand it. We also spend time with them prior to onboarding, explaining our culture and the importance of balancing their personal and professional goals/time. We are focused on providing above average benefits and competitive salaries with bonus opportunities.

We have been very fortunate over the years with retention. We encourage those we are trying to recruit to spend time with other team members, ask them questions and get as much exposure as possible to our work environment and expectations. We have had very little success in working with outside recruiting firms. I’m not saying they do not add value; they have just not been a good fit for us.

Bill Ryan,
Charlotte, NC

Recruiting new talent to our industry has been a challenge for many, many years. At times, our industry suffers from an inferiority complex. We often feel there is not enough “here” to attract someone of “real talent,” and/or we convince ourselves that kids today just don’t want to work or get their hands dirty. I believe both of these excuses are just that – excuses, and both are fundamentally wrong. Effective recruiting requires a good deal of planning and the focus of dedicated management and, yes, a significant investment in someone’s time, to make it work out correctly. And, not to mention the patience required on the part of the stakeholders to allow the recruits to learn and blossom. So, to answer the last part of the question first: Is there a cost-effective way to do this? Not if you want to recruit really good talent.

How to go about it? I mentioned planning; start there. Pick a spot – a department, a desk, a work station – and draw up a work plan around what your training program will look like. What areas will this individual work in? What will they learn and how will they grow and develop (begin with the end in mind)? Then lay in a profile of what kind of individual you are looking for. Recruit and interview for character, not experience, not credentials (although some educational credits will tell you something about a person’s IQ or their ability to complete something others are merely pieces of paper). What you are really looking for is a person of some substance; someone who was raised correctly and who has empathy and likes to work with people; a good communicator and a team oriented problem solver. A person with competitive drive and a desire to win are other key attributes. Make sure your best people participate in the interviews and get them to “buy in” on this new hire and commit to his or her long-term development and success.

How do I find them? My short answer is: network. Almost all of my best hires came to me from my best people. These were my folks who shared the same values and who want the same things out of life that I do.

They know people, they have kids and they know people who have kids and those kids need jobs. They’re out there! I am more encouraged than ever by the quality of some of the young people coming into our work force today. They are smart, they are quick on their feet, some are mature beyond their years and they are looking for something meaningful to do. Joining our industry and participating in growing and improving the lives of the people we serve is a great place for them to serve their communities and their families.