AGCO, Vermeer, Kondex, and Duramark Talk Recruiting and Retention Successes and Strategies



Workforce Recruiting and RetentionAEM’s Julie Davis joined together with member company representatives Austen Schueler, Talent Acquisition Manager for Vermeer, Ella Bowling, Aftersales Training Business Development Manager for AGCO Corporation, Kelly Peterson, Organizational Development Leader for Kondex Corporation, and Stacy Hiquet, VP of HR and Training Development for DuraMark Technologies, to talk about their recent recruitment and retention success. Other companies may be able to implement similar strategies to address their workforce woes, based on the wealth of information provided during AEM’s recent member education webinar: What’s Working in Recruitment and Onboarding. 

AEM: What are you doing to build your talent pipeline, and can you provide some examples of successes related to your efforts 

Bowling: AGCO is dedicated to cultivating the next generation of skilled diesel technicians - our dealer network needs skilled technicians to backfill the positions of those who are retiring. We have tried to engage young people, and we need to get young people excited about careers in the trades. To do this, we’ve actively pursued partnerships with youth organizations such as the FFA, SkillsUSA, and 4H. We have even built a program for younger generations called Gearing Up for Safety, which partners with Georgia 4H agents to help them implement an ag heavy equipment safety program for ages 14 to 15, that we hope will both tech safety and get them interested in ag equipment manufacturing careers. 

Peterson: At Kondex, we have participated in something called Project Grill for many years, which is through our local Chamber of Commerce. Local high schools’ partner with manufacturers in their areas, where the students work to design, build, and sell a gill alongside these manufacturers. It gives students the opportunity to learn how to read prints, how to build something with their hands, how to work on a budget, and even how to sell their final product. They get to tour these local manufacturers and spend time at our own facility here at Kondex, and they get to see the global impact that our facility in a small rural area in Wisconsin has. 

Want more information on best practices, tools, programs, and resources to help attract and retain the right talent? VisitAEM’s Workforce Solutions Toolkit. 

AEM: What have you done to change your recruitment strategy that seems to be moving the needle for you?  

Hiquet: We had to get very creative over the last few years in terms of recruiting and hiring talent. Gone are the years where we could put a sign out in the front of our building and have an open house and get a hundred candidates.  

For us at Duramark, post-incarceration programs have been one tactic that has been very successful for us. We started with a partnership with our local county jail and have expanded our efforts beyond that in recent years; one of the things that you’ll find with these programs is that most of these folks just need a second chance. They have their own counselors, and those counselors have already vetted them out in terms of work ethic and risk. A lot of the folks we have brought on board have been extremely loyal to us, because we gave them the opportunity to change their lives for the better 

The second area that we’ve seen success in is individuals with what we call seen and unseen disabilities. We’ve worked with many people in the autism community because some of our work is oftentimes repetitive and monotonous, and they tend to enjoy this type of work. We are able to connect with this talent pool through partnerships with our local Best Buddies program and Easterseals 

Schueler: If we get to the root of the issue, a huge part of many company’s problems with recruitment is change management. Something that’s been emphasized a great deal at Vermeer lately is getting through to our leadership that there is not a deep pool of talent that wants to work for any manufacturer at a discounted rate.  

We have been digging into nontraditional talent pools, as Stacy mentioned, and another nontraditional talent pool we have been working with are those who have no prior knowledge of the shop floor. Today, for any of our production team members we do baseline skill assessments, and what their capability to learn new skills is. It’s like a career assessment in many ways to determine what is the best fit for them, we want to steer them towards something that they may enjoy that they do not know about. We invest in their education and training, with no cost to employees, and pay them for their training as well. We have a comprehensive technical training program for all of our technical disciplines, and developmental programs for new career individuals who are lacking experience, which has drawn in a lot of new talent 

AEM: How has onboarding to your company changed to adapt to the equipment manufacturing industry’s labor shortage, and how has this affected retention for you? 

Hiquet: We have learned to spread out our onboarding a little bit more, trying to blend that online versus in-person training as well. We took a step back and assessed what we are doing to evaluate new employee performance. We put in place a sort of ‘training the trainer’ program, to make sure that our employees have the patience and skills to get new employees up to speed. It takes time, and we want to make sure that our trainers have the resources to support new employees effectively post-orientation.  

Peterson: Although getting employees into our facility is important, it’s also extremely important to integrate them into our team and get them to stay with us for a long time. To show that we are excited to have them on board, we send out physical welcome cards to all, which are signed physically by many current employees. It shows them that we want them to be a part of our team.  

On our new hires first or second day, they have lunch with their supervisor and their trainer. They get to have one-on-one lunch with the people who will be impacting their future career, build a trusting relationship, and make them feel valued.  

We also break up our orientation into several different days throughout our new employees first month. We focus on safety, the culture of our organization, and our values and beliefs during these orientation meetings. A lot of our new employees do not know our mission, and do not know about our company’s global impact. After they participate in onboarding and learn more about us, they can proudly tell the people that they know what Kondex does and feel good that their work is making a difference in the world.  

Beyond that, I meet with all of our new associated at three different intervals. There usually 15–30-minute one-on-one meetings, at two weeks, two months, and six months. I have specific questions to ask them, but I also open it up to general discussion and I have found out a lot from these conversations. I get to hear about the good things that we are doing, and I also get to hear about things that employees would like more support on – these touch base meetings have helped so much with retention because it allows the employees to make their voices heard.

About Member Education Webinars

AEM members have exclusive access to help them stay on top of emerging issues and trends via member education webinars. Experts break down industry issues and pinpoint critical changes in the landscape to help attendees refine their company’s strategy. 

For more information on the upcoming series of member education webinars, contact yourAccount Success Advisor. 

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