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Solving the issue of talent attraction & retention

The FPSC Speaking Food Conference hosted a panel discussion with Kathleen Sullivan, CEO of Food & Beverage Canada. An association that represents Canadian food and beverage manufacturers.

Kathleen was joined by Ross Johnston, Executive Director, Co-operative Education-University of Waterloo, Janette Brown, Manager People and Values-Grand River Foods and Carson Walsh, Process Engineer-Mondelez.

The discussion centred around the issue of talent attraction and retention. Each of the panelists shared their ideas and we have gathered 15 takeaways we hope can help you.

One of the challenges we have from a competitiveness standpoint is around labour. So if I talk to any of my member companies virtually all of them will say one of the top issues that preoccupies them is the labour situation in the industry and in their company specifically” -KS

The issues range from finding workers, to retaining workers and to making sure they have the right skill sets. The challenge is heightened by the nature of the environment which is constantly evolving especially in areas of food safety, food science, automation and digital technology.

Canada’s Agri-food economic strategy table have added to the challenge:

  • 65,000 jobs need to be filled in the next 7-10 years.
  • Grow domestic production / export sales >30%
  • See the full report here.

Here’s Where We Need to Focus:

  • Talent attraction, how do we attract workers and increase overall attractiveness to the industry?
  • How do we retain people?
  • How do we expand the labour pool? How do we ensure people have the right skills training and relevant hands on work experience?

15 KEY Take-aways from the panel discussion:

Connect front line workers to other opportunities, other facilities to motivate them to develop their skills for something further down the line. Similarly processors need to find skills they want in other people working in other facilities – to really connect those two things. – Carson Walsh, Mondelez

  1. Everyone wants to hire the brightest and the best, so its really competitive to hire talent. By 2025, 75% of labour force will be millennials.
  2. Culture and strong core values are critical. More progressive HR practices!
  3. There’s a real opportunity for the food industry as out of 3000 students on a work placement from Waterloo University only 350 worked in food and beverage.
  4. The food and beverage industry needs people with a wide range of educational backgrounds from engineers, sciences to finance, environment and kinesiology.
  5. This upcoming workforce are life long learners. They are seeking a real connection to the company/job and how they can grow.
  6. Every single student remembers their FIRST work term. They remember the company that gave them the chance. Those connections become your future candidate pool.
  7. Perception of this industry is not great, it doesn’t seem like a ‘modern’ career. Some of the job titles reflect titles their grandparents had. Imaging is an issue.
  8. Career development conversations and individual career trajectory show the best results for retention.
  9. Connect front line workers to other opportunities, other facilities to motivate them to develop their skills for something further down the line. Also processors to find skills they want in other people working in other facilities – to really connect those two things.
  10. Values and companies with a strong social conscience is the number 1 thing millennials and Gen Z focus on. Take advantage of them talking about your organization with their peers.
  11. New workforce are the BEST ones to pick up on the training. They are engaged as they have been exposed to much of the automation/digital technology as they’ve grown up.
  12. Emotional intelligence is essential to grow leaders and there is a gap here.
  13. As the required skill set is shifting, schools are engaging more and more with industry for program development. Students understand their learning goals and performance reviews are key for feedback.
  14. Think outside the box. Hire under represented groups like new Canadians. 60% of foreign students remain in Canada after they complete their studies.
  15. Fair living wage, company culture, values and feeling part of something progressive and able to contribute. Career development is king.

Check out the full discussion here on YouTube.


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