November 01, 2011
Sometimes inquiries just don’t lead you where you think they will, and this was one of those times.
For much of the year, we’ve noted, foodservice has been growing, and the equipment and supplies end has been growing right with it, in some cases even more so. Publicly traded suppliers have reported good numbers. The Manufacturers’ Agents Association for the Food Service Industry’s Business Barometer has shown growth. Big dealers generally have done well. All fairly good as of press time.
Coinciding with that growth, especially in recent months, we’ve noted a spate of personnel announcements, a lot more industry job activity, it seemed. Could the growth and the job activity be related? Could we be seeing some expansion in employment?
Well, that question didn’t go where we thought it would. Quick to pop a pin in our balloon was Michael J. Hawkins, of the aptly named Michael J. Hawkins Inc. executive search firm.
“Recruiting is fairly brisk, but it is not due to economic expansion or new investment,” he said. Instead, the uptick has been a matter of filling openings left by people who couldn’t make their numbers, or people departing for better opportunities or retirement. Headcounts generally are not going up.
“The only [truly new hiring growth on the supplier side] is where clients are investing to serve large chain account business.”
But that also led Mr. Hawkins to make another point, totally unexpected. Even though recruitment has been up, it’s not getting easier; he has some concerns for our industry in the long run. He noted foodservice E&S, which has never been famous for investing in training and talent, is still not famous for it.
“Finding, fresh, outstanding talent is proving to be more challenging than ever as our industry reaps the inevitable reward of not investing in training [and] not investing in up and comers who cannot deliver a quick bang for the buck.”
And just like that, a question about employment expansion had ricocheted into a warning about the industry’s talent situation.
Which raises the question: Are you investing in talent, both established and new, and in training? Sure, in the current employment environment, you might be able to snag some good talent on the cheap. But that’s only going to work as a short-term solution. What comes around that way goes out the door that way too.
What are you doing to cultivate, to fertilize, for a healthy long-term supply of talent? Farmers have to replace the nutrients in the soil. Otherwise it dries up and blows away, and the crops stall.
It’s the same with human talent. Consider your job structures and whatever kind of on-the-job training you might have. Do you have any systematic approach to cross-training, to keeping job duties variable and fresh? Some of this might seem irrelevant considering staffing often is so thin that there’s nobody to swap duties with. But that in itself is the beginning of the human Dust Bowl.
Consider your incentives and reimbursements for continuing education, ongoing training and certifications. You need talent, and you need to keep it fresh.
As Marvin Windows and Doors’ Pres. Susan Marvin said in a recent New York Times article, “You can’t cut your way to prosperity.”