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Workforce recruitment and retention is critical to the success of any business. The November-December 2017 edition of PalletCentral provided insights from our industry thought leaders on the topic. Let's continue the conversation...


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Define Your Company Culture

Posted By James Ruder, Thursday, February 15, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Without question, the first response from people when asked about their company’s workforce is usually negative. Regardless if asked today, or 5-10 years ago, employers find themselves always complaining about labor. I’m guilty too, but not anymore. I found it to be wasted energy and draining to say the least.

Things began to change when I started to recognize the value of the human capital surrounding me and realized that filling jobs wasn’t all about me needing workers to produce “my” widget. I recognized the opportunity to positively influence people that needed help in their lives. It is easy to think that entry level workers are the most challenging, but the fact is that every human being that walks through my front door has a ton of baggage, and junk in the trunk. If I expect them to deal with their problems outside of work, and yet show up with a smile on their face every day, then I am the fool.

The fact is that turnover is our enemy, not the available workforce alone. Pallet company business owners have gotten used to needing hundreds of applicants yearly when they only have a handful of jobs to fill. My plant manager Jay Doyle reminded me not worry about having a long line at the door. He encouraged me and said, “We just need 10 people today boss, not 100, if we can keep them from leaving.”

The magnitude of that statement is huge because it creates freedom from worrying about what is happening in the job market with so many other opportunities. It challenges us to be smart in a different way. Looking at what I’m doing internally to keep employees is a far better use of my time than trying to figure out where to advertise jobs to reach more people. 

It’s foolish to keep doing what I did 20 years ago and expect it to work. Demographics have changed for sure. But I don’t control those things, I only control how I respond to change. Expecting it to be enough to just give an employee a fair market wage, an average benefit package, and a dirty hard job, is foolish. We need to ask ourselves how to become the destination for people looking for work, and it’s going to look different for each of us based on our surroundings. 

Millennials are causal. In other words, missional. They want their life to count. They join in worthy causes. They don’t give to church, but they will contribute to a friend in need or a GoFundMe cause. We can work with that at L&R Pallet because we have started to hire people based upon being a cultural fit first, skills/ability second.

It has been my experience that all people need purpose. Applicants don’t come to us with a burning passion to make pallets, but they do come with a longing to be a part of something greater. So “what” do I do to staff my workforce? My job (my mission) is to lead and take care of the people standing in front of me. Their job (their mission) is their work station. Our job is building, serving and impacting everyone and everything through what we do. The vessel just happens to be a pallet, but it is not “why” we get up every day. I get up to make a difference to a captive audience that reports to work for 40 hours each week. It’s an opportunity and a responsibility. By doing that, serving the customer has become easy. 

The answer is actually simple; start loving people. I guarantee it’s the secret sauce in defining your company culture and figuring out where you will be in 5 to 10 years.

Tags:  immigration  labor  millennials  personnel  workforce 

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Tight Labor Market in Midwest

Posted By Brett Cole, Tuesday, February 6, 2018

2018 will continue to be a tight labor market in the Midwest. We have fewer people who actually want to do physical labor. Cole Pallet Services will continue to automate and hire higher level employees to offset the labor shortages. We’ve also increased our starting wage and use temp services to do our initial hiring. This puts some of the burden of drug screening, background checks, and e-verification on the staffing agency.

In the next 5-10 years we expect our industry to consolidate and to open room for growth by hiring people with experience in our industry. We also expect automation to continue causing the need for physical labor to decrease. Overall, physical labor will continue to be hard to find and skilled labor for automation will be required.

Regarding pay and benefits, we’re working on increasing wages and offering more benefits to employees. As we grow, we want our employees to grow with us.

In our small town, we have several big businesses, Nestle, Target, 3M (5+ plants), etc, therefore we compete against some top tier employers for our labor. Right now, the biggest competition is for labor.

We’ll continue to automate and train our key employees to use the new equipment. This will allow us to keep our most valuable staff while producing more pallets and cut-stock on a daily basis.

Tags:  automation  labor  market  personnel 

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