Packaging Scotland

Features

Fresh calls for skills gap to be addressed

Luke Robbins-Wells

The plastics and packaging industry is going through a period of growth at the moment with a plethora of M&A activity. However, one of the sector’s ongoing challenges is a reliable talent acquisition strategy, particularly at entry level. As the managing director of Chad Harrison International, a global specialist search and selection consultancy within the plastics and packaging industry, Luke Robbins-Wells and his team have first-hand experience of the challenges faced by firms attempting to attract talent. Here, he discusses the strategies required and the companies implementing them in order to attract the best candidates.

Q) WHAT ARE THE TYPICAL SKILL SETS YOUR CLIENTS ARE LOOKING FOR?

A) Within commercial roles, our clients are typically looking for experienced hires who can come with a proven ability to sell into the majors. Technical experience is not necessary, however, a good understanding and close match to the products they have worked with and the markets they sell into is vital.

In such a fast-paced market currently, companies are struggling to justify long lead times to train new hires with a preference to bring on proven sales professionals with the right knowledge. They are looking for profiles with market-specific knowledge, so less generalist, more specialists.

Q) WHAT FACTORS TYPICALLY AFFECT THE RECRUITMENT PROCESS, IN TERMS OF TIMELINE, COUNTRY SPECIFIC RULES/REGULATIONS?

A) Given the speed of the market now and ‘time poor’ management teams, delays in the hiring process are creating negative repercussions for companies. Indecisiveness is causing loss of potential talent; the market is very active and top talent doesn’t remain available for long periods of time. Companies need to work quickly to ensure they attract the best talent but also, they need to look internationally, rather than thinking only locally.

Q) WHAT IS THE PACKAGING INDUSTRY DOING ABOUT SKILLS SHORTAGES AT AN ENTRY LEVEL?

A) Some key players in the industry are beginning to align with training providers and universities but we feel this needs to be further increased. Regulatory bodies are spotting the talent shortage now and we noted many are trying to get the word out about the industry and make it an industry of choice for graduates.

We feel that universities need to work closer with industry partners to better understand the practical elements of the packaging industry. We are finding talented graduates are prepared from a theoretical perspective but they are still experiencing a steep learning curve from a practical point of view when they first enter the market.

Q) WHAT PERCENTAGE OF YOUR CLIENTS HAVE A ROADMAP FOR SUCCESSION PLANNING?

A) Across our client network, we identified that less than 40% have an established succession planning strategy. Many of our clients are still working reactively, particularly in the SME market.

We are working closely with our clients to ensure they are aware of recruitment trends in the market, leveraging our expertise gained from years of experience in recruitment. Talent acquisition should be a constant process for every business. We suggest our clients focus on keeping talented candidates warm until a need arises.

Q) IN INTERNATIONAL RECRUITMENT, WHAT FACTORS ARE IMPORTANT TO CANDIDATES LOOKING FOR A MOVE TO A NEW COUNTRY?

A) Many candidates are looking for stability. Committing to relocate for a new position with a new company involves a lot of trust. Often, candidates will move their families so initial and ongoing support from an employer can add real value to securing top talent.

As experts in supporting many expatriate candidates, we recommend where feasible, offering relocation support and having someone on hand who can guide them through the entire process whether it be a consultant from Chad Harrison International, an internal consultant or someone external, on the ground.

Prospects are also key, ensuring there are opportunities within the business and a career path for candidates to further progress in the company. Safety is another key factor, ensuring that the area they’re moving to is safe for the family, has low crime rate or appropriate security measures in place, plenty of amenities, leisure facilities and good international schools.

Remuneration is also an important factor with companies needing to look at the net value of an offer to a candidate including taxable benefits and cost of living in the new country. Some in the packaging industry are still trying to attract the best international candidates on local contracts. This restrictive approach prevents companies from attracting the best international candidates.