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This week I was on a planning call with panelists for our New Plant Construction session at the FPSA Executive Exchange & Conference taking place next month and an interesting topic came up.

While discussing important challenges in site selection for a new plant, one panelist volunteered that the local workforce is a top consideration when comparing different locations. I had expected to hear something about tax rebates or other efforts by local authorities to “sweeten the pot”. Nope. It’s all about who can work in the plant and their degree of technical expertise. What good is a favorable tax environment if you don’t have people to get your product out the door?

Interestingly enough, we have a session on that very topic at the same event. “Addressing Food Industry Workforce Shortages for the Long Term” will take place on Thursday, March 28th and feature speakers from Perdue and AgriBeef who will be sharing what companies are doing to develop their personnel. This goes far beyond just recruiting good people, but training and providing benefits that make them want to stay at the company beyond the point where they receive their next job offer (which you can be assured is always coming for your good employees).

While investigating this topic, I found a great quote I’d like to share from an article by SHRM that spoke of Sam’s Club, among others.

“If [employees] are confident in what they're doing and they can see a clear path for their career, they're more likely to stay with the company.”

Employees at Sam’s Club achieve this confidence thanks to extensive training that not only addresses skills that are lacking (but needed), but also shows how the employer is committed to them. Does that mean they’ll never leave, obviously not. But before that eventually happens, the company has a more productive employee that contributes to the bottom line.

This reminds me of a conversation I had years ago long before the labor market got so tight. I spoke with the owner of a company I was familiar with about training and what he was doing for his employees. Nothing, he said. If I train them, they’ll just take those lessons to the next company they go work for. In fact, by training them, he was making them even more attractive for his competitors to poach. No, best just to teach them enough to do the job and nothing beyond that. Sounds like a happy place to work! Of course, that was prior to the pandemic and the great retirement boom. I haven’t been in touch with him or that company in many years, so I expect they have changed their ways, or are otherwise muddling through still.

I look forward to hearing our session and more importantly what these two innovative companies are doing to retain their employees. It’s not too late to join us in Indian Wells and be part of this conversation, although you can’t wait much longer as we are almost out of our room block.

Don’t wait!

Andy Drennan