Foodservice Equipment Reports


Something odd is going on out there. Even with 9.1% unemployment, employers of all sizes, in all kinds of industries, are grousing that they cannot find suitable hires.

How could that be?  It has been fashionable to bash the educational system, from grammar schools up through secondary education, but that’s bogus. Recent educational trends haven’t changed enough to ruin the labor pool in just the past few years. So why do we have a dearth of good candidates now, but not a few years back? Or maybe that’s not it at all. Maybe there’s no real shortage of good candidates.

Recruiters have noted our industry, generally speaking, isn’t much on professional development. A lot of equipment and supplies employers across the channel don’t put much effort into recruiting, training, or ongoing education. With margins and profits trending downward in recent years, nobody’s anxious to invest in personnel development. Nobody wants a candidate who shows great potential for a couple years down the road. Everyone wants a short payback, whether it’s in a piece of equipment or an employee. Employers aren’t looking for good candidates; they’re looking for perfect ones.

A column in the Oct. 24 Wall Street Journal indicates the problem isn’t peculiar to dealers or the E&S industry, but is widespread in America. “I believe the real culprits are the employers themselves,” writes Peter Cappelli, Ph.D., the George W. Taylor professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.

The combination of high unemployment and tight budgets has encouraged employers to go for the perfect candidate, Cappelli says, one who can hit the ground at full speed “without any training or ramp-up.”

And there just aren’t that many of those candidates out there. Instead, Cappelli says, companies should “look for people who could do the job with a bit of training and practice. There are plenty of ways to get workers up to speed without investing too much time and money.”  Cappelli mentions extended probationary periods, more promoting from within, more on-the-job training, and ongoing professional development.

The latter is one of the great strengths of FEDA, actually. If you’re not a member, you should consider joining for the professional development opportunities alone. And if you are a member, you should be making the most of the training and education the group offers; FEDA frequently holds webinars on a variety of topics, both on the sales side and back-of-house functions.

FEDA members also have access to the much-lauded University of Industrial Distribution program. The UID program is sponsored by 30 associations in industrial distribution markets. Course content is developed by the sponsors in concert with Purdue University. Courses include such topics as marketing and pricing strategies, company differentiation, and effective inventory control. Participants who complete 90 hours of coursework earn a Certification in Industrial Education granted by Purdue.

There are other ways, too, to develop your personnel. Work with community colleges. Offer reimbursements for continuing ed. Develop your own in-house training/education requirements for retention or promotion. Whatever you do, it will require effort, and it will require investment. But it will pay off.

Truly great employees are not found. They’re developed.

Chief Editor

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