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Kraft keeps recruiting pipeline flowing

Recruiting of new packaging people-high-quality, skilled personnel-is an increasingly difficult job these days, thanks to the low unemployment rates that have spurred this economy.
FILED IN:  Package Type  > Bulk packaging

Virtually all the packaging people interviewed for this series of articles agreed this is a tough time to attract qualified new workers. In this section and in the November issue the editors of Packaging World present a number of articles that identify today's personnel problem and offer proven techniques that have helped some of our readers not only recruit good packaging people but also keep the good ones they already have. Some companies have less difficulty with personnel than others. Perhaps it's because they recognize that the short-term investment brings long-term returns. It's the age-old dilemma: Do we keep water flowing constantly so it's always there when we need it or do we prime the pump only when water is required. This conundrum about water is the same one that's faced by HR and packaging recruiters: Does a company keep its recruiting mechanism in place even when it doesn't need workers or does it go through fitful starts and stops depending on the need to hire? Kraft Foods' packaging development groups definitely vote for the former even as many of their smaller competitors economize with the latter. As Kraft's Richard Kaufman associate technology principal at Tarrytown NY told us the company's goal is to keep the flow of-in this case students-consistent and regular. Even when the company doesn't need entry-level packaging professionals the regular and routine contact with the schools and students especially at Michigan State University keeps the company profile high. Sure Kraft has a well-developed and formalized plan to first attract undergraduates as co-ops and second to use them as a base for new entry-level hires. That's not new nor is it exclusive with Kraft. What may be though is the continuous and regular operation of this "future employee pump" through both fat and lean times. Its investment in the program certainly moves up and down a bit but unlike companies that turn their recruiting pumps on and off Kraft never abandons its interest in students. What does it gain by keeping the flow open? "Obviously we can't take them all" Kaufman says because Kraft's needs vary. "We keep in touch with them after they return to school. Some have other plans. We may have an opening in Chicago and they have family in the East so they take a job with Mars or Hershey. "Sometimes we get them back later. That is common" Kaufman says. And of course when co-ops return to East Lansing they often become "field recruiters" for Kraft through word-of-mouth recounting of their experiences. So lots of openings or not Kraft continually works the program because it recognizes the dividends it receives now and in the future. Probably not a lot of companies can afford the investment that Kraft makes year-in and year-out. But just think about the investment these same companies must make when they do need new people. Think how costly it is to crank up the recruiting apparatus how much time is invested in interviewing and selecting and you may begin to understand why Kraft Foods does this each and every year keeping its pipeline to students flowing no matter what the labor market is like. (For a look at how Procter & Gamble taps its college pipeline see page 105.) The issue of recruiting and retention is especially appropriate for our Pack Expo 98 preview issue and two "slogans" bear it out. Pack Expo is justifiably billed as "the world of packaging technology." Although technology is usually associated with labor replacement it's becoming clearer that the workers needed to operate and maintain the equipment of this technology must themselves be more technically proficient and skilled. This was chronicled in Packaging World's series of articles Packaging 2000 two years ago. All of this is a round-about way of moving to that second slogan this time from telecommunications giant Ameritech: "In a world of [packaging] technology people make the difference." As always.

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