Volume 55: Changes in the Industry

RoyAfter each newsletter, I really enjoy reading through the responses we get from members of the industry, and the last newsletter we sent out about starting the New Year with reasonable goals was no different.

But this time I got a different kind of response than I’m used, and it made me stop and think for a little bit.

This one was from a long-time Electrician in the industry. He had been with the same Major Integrated Company for 25 years before leaving recently.

What would drive an electrician with that kind of tenure to leave?

According to this individual, lack of compromise on the part of the Major Integrateds to accommodate and make the lives of their employees a little easier, especially in places where it would be very easy to do so.

On the other side of the equation, I regularly hear complaints from clients in the Major Integrated ranks that lament the lack of employee loyalty in 2018, and the way so many employees jump around so much in their careers these days.

And all of this goes back to the talk I did at TAPPI back in October: The Major Integrateds, and several of the larger independent companies, have reputations for treating their people poorly, and the current workforce, particularly those that are younger, have a reputation for being much more transient than the generations that preceded them.

Whether either of these reputations are fair or accurate isn’t for me to decide, but these are the things I hear on a weekly, if not daily, basis around the corrugated industry. And this perfect storm has created what, at CorrExpo, we called The Talent Crisis in the Corrugated Industry.

For those that have been around the industry as long as I have, (my team here jokes that my first Corrugated Placement was a Brontosaurus), do you remember the pride that people used to take in their companies? Back when the landscape was full of companies like Weyerhaeuser, Gaylord, Boise, and many others?

Now, not all of those companies were picnics to work for either, but back then, an employee generally felt a sense of ownership over their company’s success, beyond the holding of stock. Employees wanted to stay and grow within their companies, and there was generally opportunity for promotion.

What the hell happened?

The simple answer is the process of mergers and acquisitions over the years. A landscape that used to be much more eclectic, with many smaller companies, has become much more centralized. You have a few huge companies, and a handful of smaller independents, and this consolidation has had huge effects on the industry.

The uniformity of these Major Integrateds brings efficiency, and profit for the stockholders or owners, but have the tendency to wipe away individuality. And with that loss of individuality, some of that pride of ownership is lost.

Again, whether these changes are good or bad is for someone much smarter than me to decide, but I can say that progress is not always positive for everyone involved.

And now that this is the landscape we live with, companies have to understand that the world, and the workforce that make it up, are changing rapidly, largely because of their actions. They need to adapt.

So, for the next few months, we’re going to dive into this topic in a much more in-depth fashion than we were able to at TAPPI or in the one brief newsletter before that event.

I’ll talk more in-depth about the ways the corrugated industry has changed over my 30 years recruiting, and how those changes have led to the current staffing crisis. I’ll break my Hierarchy of Needs chart back out that we discussed back in October to talk about what modern employees are looking for, and why so many companies are failing to meet those expectations. Finally, we’ll talk about why it’s so hard to attract new, young, qualified talent into the corrugated industry, and what changes could be made to better achieve that goal.

It is also my hope that we will hear from some employees, and employers, in the industry, and get a first-hand account of these issues from the people it directly affects.

And if you disagree with anything I’ve written, or will write, I encourage you to reach out. We are always open to constructive dialogue to try to make the industry better.

See you in three weeks.

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