Where have all the packaging professionals gone?

Are you having trouble finding good packaging professionals? Not long ago, the process was simple. There were a few good recruiters specializing in packaging.

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You could count on them to fill open positions and pay their fees ranging from 25-35% of the first year salary. It was well worth it, because they understood the nuances of the profession, understood that there are only a few schools offering degrees in packaging, they had personal relationships with hiring managers and candidates, and the recruiters could be trusted—i.e. we never referred to the good ones as “head hunters.” Today, there are many challenges, and new, innovative approaches are needed. Here are some thoughts on the challenges, as well as some potential solutions.

Challenges:

• The Internet of HR—Over the last 15 years, we have seen Monster.com, Careerbuilder.com, and others offer Internet-enabled job and resume posting services. Universities offer job and resume posting services for Alumni. Many recruiting firms outside of packaging have decided they can work in packaging, using the web and emails to communicate with candidates—they “sell” their one-stop-shop service to corporate HR, suggesting they can take care of all their R&D needs, and they offer to do so for 20% fees.

• Home Sweet Home—9/11 and the Recession of 2009 have caused changes in employees. We’ve seen many job candidates wanting the security of where they are, or they have wanted to find a job closer to home. New graduates, on the other hand, are far more flexible and adventurous.

• Baby Boomers—75 million Baby Boomers in the US have started changing status to retirees and a few consultants. Boomer’s kids, Gen Xers, only number 41 million. The result is fewer experienced packaging professionals in the marketplace. In addition, Gen Xers have different expectations, many of which are being met best by companies not stuck in old traditions and practices.

• The world woke up to the value of packaging—In the last ten years, we have also seen an increasing number of companies hiring packaging professionals. With the increasing importance of private brands, most retailers are building packaging departments. More packaging suppliers and smaller CPGs are also building packaging organizations. So fewer are available to hire.

• Outsourcing and Insourcing—In order to fill the void, many firms are contracting with global and boutique agencies for packaging professionals to manage projects. Too often, these agencies, like the “recruiting firms” noted above, know nothing about packaging. They have a staple of engineers and product developers, but the inexperienced packaging people have to be taught and supervised.

The symptoms: HR with hundreds of unqualified resumes to sort through; long, drawn out searches; frustrated hiring managers; job candidates relying on emails and no real personal relationship; companies recruiting the best professionals from each other, and no hope of ever being fully staffed with full-time employees.

Solutions: Organizational planning requires new, innovative thinking and planning. There is no single answer, but we recommend building a 3-5 year roadmap that incorporates thinking around trends, projected future demands, technology advancements, training, corporate vision, and your corporate culture. Above are two checklists with guidelines intended to link the recruiting/staffing with the Innovation Operating Guidelines.

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