LIMA — For some companies, an aging workforce is a concern, especially when it means years of experience and skills could soon retire away as the Baby Boomer generation transitions into the next phase of life.
Local manufacturers know this well and are planning well ahead for their retirement.
Reaching the younger generation, now well known as Millennials, has meant new ideas with recruiting starting even before posting jobs, which also has changed. While people used to search for a job through classified ads in the newspaper, the trend is online with social media and websites dedicated to job postings.
At Whirlpool Corporation in Ottawa, Plant Manager Jennifer Hanna estimates 10 to 20 percent of the workforce would be eligible for retirement in the next five years. The plant has 450 employees.
“Similar to any other business, it’s a concern. We have a high level of experience, knowledge and skill exiting the workforce,” Hanna said.
To attract and keep millennials, the company has a two-fold approach. The company is investing in training employees and offers onsite apprentice programs with high schools or colleges called Work, Earn and Learn programs, such as one with Rhodes State College.
“The intent would be that they would assume positions here after school and become part of our workforce,” Hanna said.
At Rudolph Foods, President Rich Rudolph estimates 10 percent of the workforce, which includes about 150 people at the headquarters in Westminster, would be eligible to retire in the next five to 10 years. That is a concern since it means the company could lose the knowledge base and skills.
Rudolph Foods is active in recruiting talented people and does so through job fairs such as MakerFest in Lima. The company is proactive in using various websites to post job openings such as Monster, Career Builder and OhioMeansJobs. The company also uses social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, Rudolph said.
On top of that, Rudolph Foods is working to make its facilities more appealing to work at, such as adding flexibility to work schedules or a different set of more favorable hours in the offices, for example, he said.
The company also surveys its workers anonymously to find out what they want from an employer.
“It gives us good information, then we go to try to take action to improve. Millennials want to have their opinions heard. We are really trying to cater to that,” Rudolph said.
Whirlpool also is investing a lot in the latest technology to teach new workers the latest skills and to help enhance the skills of current employees. One area that continues to grow is robotics, Hanna said.
Whirlpool also partners with the University of Findlay, which has a strong program in environmental health and safety.
“It’s really bridging the gap in high school and the next step in education while allowing students to earn money at the same time,” Hanna said.
The partnerships that companies such as Whirlpool are forming with local high schools to attract talent also is an invaluable recruiting tool, Hanna said.
Bob Evans Foods uses similar programs to attract future employees. In early February, the company hosted 31 Perry High School students to show off its facility that cooks and packages mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese for Bob Evans, and make connections with whom may someday be employees.
Bob Evans Foods Director of Marketing Thyme Hill said the company’s biggest concern when hiring is finding qualified people. The local facility has about 300 people, and the company must continue to look for ways to attract people to the manufacturing industry. Hill said that is harder than it was 25 years ago.
“We want to make sure we identify those who are interested and we expose them to our facility and Bob Evans and to our brand. We want to make sure we grow that pool of potential candidates,” Hill said. “Wherever we find good talent, that’s where we go.”
But not all companies have as much to worry about with retirement of Baby Boomers. Still, companies always keep up with ways to recruit good employees.
At Lakeview Farms, Director of Human Resources Jerry Peterson estimates 20 people out of a workforce of 585 people will reach retirement age and could potentially retire in the next five to 10 years.
A big part of that is due to a major expansion in the past two years at Lakeview Farms in Delphos that included a large hiring of people many who are in the millennial age group.
“We have tripled the size of our operation here,” Peterson said.
But that does not mean Lakeview Farms lacks a job recruiting program. The company continues to look for bright and talented people, and Peterson said attracting millennials means using social media.
“We are doing everything from posting job positions on our website to on Facebook,” he said.
Lakeview also uses other websites that post job such as OhioMeansJobs, LinkedIn and Twitter, he said.
Reach Greg Sowinski at 567-242-0464 or on Twitter @Lima_Sowinski.