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Tips to better attract and retain labor

The produce industry has trouble finding enough labor during normal times, so when the labor market is especially tight, like now, it hurts that much more.

There are ways to both attract and keep talent more effectively, speakers said during a United Fresh BB #:145458 Reimagine virtual roundtable June 11.

Steve Grinstead, chief executive officer of FreshEdge, said connecting with younger employees is more important because that’s something they care about in an organization.

“I find the younger generation wants to work differently, but they have a passion,” he said. “They want to be part of an organization they can be proud of.”

One way to connect better with employees and potential employees is better communication.

“We’ve changed to texting employees, especially new hires” instead of emails or calls, said Judy Clark, CEO, Fresh From Texas, LLC, BB #:341825 San Antonio, TX.

“We use text much more than email for employees and candidates,” said Kathleen Quandee, vice president human resources, Pacific Coast Fruit Co., BB #:100777 Portland, OR. “But we have to be careful not to overuse it.”

Ravi Subramanian, vice president of talent acquisition for U.S. Foods, Inc., BB #:134354 Chicago, agreed that emails aren’t as useful for a mostly hourly workforce.

“We use different channels, like for truck drivers” using mobile phones and other communication tools they use every day, he said.

Clark also said being more flexible with pay and incentivizing good behavior leads to better retention.

“We give bonuses to workers who clock in on time,” she said.

Fresh From Texas also has changed to an on-demand pay access system that allows workers to access their pay anytime and not just wait for weekly or biweekly paychecks. Clark said this change has brought some temporary employees on full time.

Austin Vogler, manager of talent, culture, and human resources for Coborn’s, Inc., BB #:167605 Saint Cloud, MN, said employee retention is critical in the retail industry because it makes the training investment pay off.

“We promote high performers,” he said. “You have to keep them learning new things.”

There are techniques that work across businesses, Grinstead said, but connecting with employees is still a very personal experience.

Just like during the pandemic, people and companies experience things uniquely.

“I like to say we’re not all in the same boat,” Grinstead said. “We’re all in the same storm but in different boats.”

Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services