Thermoforming Report

How do you Attract and Retain Talent?

by Keith Brown, President & Owner, Siena Group.


Upon reflection of August’s Thermoforming Report about how candidates can stand out in job searches, it made sense to look at this same topic from the HIRING point of view. It didn’t take much time searching to find several great articles on how to differentiate yourself in the marketplace in order to attract and retain talent. 

Let’s just dive right in! 

the Marketplace

Though not a new topic, some of the landscape has shifted. It remains a very challenging market in terms of finding great talent, but a few recent articles are talking about things becoming more competitive from a candidate’s perspective.  

In Forbes’ article “What Skills Should Stand Out in a Competitive Job Market? (07/09/23), the author highlights a few key things: 

  • The job market has taken a turn in recent months toward a competitive status quo that favors employers. 
  • Layoffs have become less of a temporary placeholder strategy and more of a status quo. 
  • Now that the job search has become more competitive, employers looking to fill slots in their teams have increasing power to choose. 

Interesting, right?!? The article has more to say … discussion to be continued further below. 

I’m not seeing these trends in manufacturing – specifically in thermoforming at this point. However, I am listening and paying attention in order to stay ahead of the trends. 

There is another key item to interject: signs of burnout

I’ve spoken to a number of very talented people – the kind every last company is looking to add to their team. They report that this kind of burnout stems from the second bullet point above: layoffs happened, but business is booming, and your A-level people are killing it… so why add headcount!? They can handle it all, right?

Right… until they decide to leave because you are so heavily relying on them that are tired and worn out and you lose them! One person in particular blew me away with a response from his Director. This ‘working manager’ (think someone who leads a team and is tasked with doing individual contributor work as well) asked his Director to hire someone in order to help shoulder the ever-increasing load and work demands. The Director shared, “Why should I hire anyone else?  You are doing a great job!”  Candidly, I think the Director was complimenting this A-level talent without realizing that they were planning an exit due to over-work and out-of-balance priorities! The lesson here? Listen sincerely for the underlying reason for the ask.

The Right Culture

Nothing new here: Invest in your culture! As leaders, be deliberate about what you want to create in your workplace, and then go and do it! 

Another Forbes article digs into a few key areas to make improvements in your organization’s culture:  

  1. Company culture begins with defining the company’s core set of values. “There’s no company too small to begin thinking about values or too large to believe it can graduate from it. The ultimate goal should be a workforce in which being long-tenured isn’t uncommon because you’ve created an environment where employees choose to be there and do their best work through the most glorious ups and inevitable downs.” 
  1. These three key components of cultivating a company’s culture rise to the surface: 
  • Consistency – starts at the top and courses through the company in all interactions 
  • Communication – “Remember your audience and tailor the messaging to ensure all parties understand why tough decisions are being made.” Always be careful to craft messages that are empathetic, human, and encompass the culture; “nothing will be received well if the delivery doesn’t align with your values.” 
  • Character – “Be who you say you are. Be proud of who you say you are. And act in a manner that’s fitting for who you say you are. The ability to maintain those traits when viewing the pasture from the highest peaks or staring at the path ahead from the lowest valleys can only happen when the company’s cultural foundation is strong.” 

I wholeheartedly agree with these! We highlighted a client in our January 2023 blog that spoke directly to the communication point above. A decision was made to be different and be better when it came to company culture. It was driven by the president of the company, and they invested time, energy, and effort into this fundamental change. And it paid off! Not only were they recognized and awarded by the state of Michigan, but the more important reward is the increased ownership and loyalty of the team members and the improved overall workplace that was created! 

The Right Perks

No, I’m not talking about variable comp and a phone plan – well, not just about those items. 

This is more about the experience and what you offer to prospective A-level talent. Again, it didn’t take much time to find a couple of great recent articles highlighting a few things to consider. 

Offer a strong – and even customizable – Learning & Development program [from “How Learning & Development can Help you Attract and Retain Talent”, MRINetwork, 07/24/23 

  • Skills training is one of the top perks younger workers look for in a new job, according to a Gallup survey conducted on behalf of Amazon. 
  • L&D might seem like something too expensive and time-consuming, especially for smaller companies. But the reality is that training is more affordable than ever, and its benefits do not have to do with business size. In a world where workers, especially those from younger generations, want to see an obvious path to advancement and growth, it’s not an opportunity you can afford to pass up. 

From the Forbes “What Skills Should Stand Out in a Competitive Job Market? 7/9/23 article: 

  • Embrace the non-traditional career pathI very much agree with this one! This is all about being open and willing to explore tremendous talent that does not have the educational chops you think you must have to fill a key open role. Look beyond education and focus on their long-term results and how they align with your company culture. You’d be surprised at the crazy value that is out there if you just slightly adjust your paradigm! 
  • Find ways to make the process nicer for candidatesHoly moly is this true! If you haven’t been on a job interview recently – and this entire blog is targeting companies and hiring managers – then you don’t know how frustrating it can be to go through a hiring process! My recommendation: be objective and try going through your own process from start to finish. It could be very enlightening!

Another Forbes article, “5 Ways HR Leaders Can Design a ‘Destination Employer” published in June; highlights: 

  • Make career mobility a priority: advancement counts! 
  • Provide opportunities for career development: personal and professional growth counts! 
  • Extend education benefits: opportunity counts! 
  • Address pay equity issues: fairness counts! 
  • Give employees greater work-life flexibility & balance: adaptability counts! 
Think Differently about Brands

In the investigative effort surrounding this topic, we found an interesting article from CEO Magazine, “How Unleashing your Brandemic is the Key to Targeting your True Audience” (08/08/23), which provides a unique perspective on branding. 

At the outset, it doesn’t seem to align with the topic of this blog. However, the more I reviewed and re-read it, the more things became clear. Catchphrases and fancy marketing fodder aside, some key points can be drawn regarding attracting talent via a very strong brand.   

The company brand should represent more than just a logo. “A brand strategy should be a clear reflection of the ideologies & beliefs [the ‘culture’] that the company/entity/person wants to signify.”  That’s powerful.  Also, once people recognize themselves in your brand, they become willing to take action on behalf of your brand rather than simply engage.” 

When a brand focuses on how it sees the world, it invites consumers who share that viewpoint to invest themselves into the brand. And when they do, they not only consume the brand, but they use it as a receipt of their identity – before sharing it with other people like themselves.” 

Allow me to help you make the leap that I did on how this applies. 

When recruiting A-level talent, you are selling a role, a company culture, and it can be argued, an identity to the prospective candidate. What is a very common first question that is asked when being introduced (after asking someone their name)? “What do you do for a living?” which is quickly followed by “Who do you work for?” It carries weight!   

And, as hiring managers and professionals in the recruiting world, the number one way to hire talent is via networking, correct?  Word of mouth.  Powerful recommendations.  The “willing to take action on behalf of your brand” above is readily applied to recruiting: are your team members ‘taking action’ on behalf of the company and helping you recruit via their referrals?  Are they saying, ‘You gotta come work for my company!  We are growing, they offer great [fill in the blank], and it is a great work environment!”  Or are they asking their colleagues about whether or not other companies are hiring in order to make a change?!? 

Wrapping it Up

As business leaders, company owners, executives, and hiring managers, your team members matter.  They are the lifeblood of the business. Yes, you gotta have sales, a great quality product (made safely), and profitability but not at the cost of your people. 

Being deliberate about your workplace’s culture, what it has to offer (think career growth and advancement), and even your overall brand is a must to maintain continuity, momentum, employee retention, and attractiveness to new A-list talent! 

At Siena Group, we are your Thermoforming Talent Partner! We’re here to help in any and every way possible! With more than 30 years of experience in manufacturing, hiring & recruiting talent, we bring a greater understanding of the companies we partner with and the candidates we pursue. Let’s Strengthen Your Search!

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