Gone Fishing: Superior Industries Gets Creative With Workforce Recruitment Efforts



Superior WorkforceBy Mike Schmidt, AEM Director of Industry Communications

When it comes to addressing a complex and pressing industry issue like workforce development, it’s like the old adage says, “convention is the enemy of progress.”

Morris, Minnesota-based AEM member company Superior Industries is known for taking unique and innovative approaches to organizational opportunities and challenges. So, when the company’s leaders tasked themselves with bringing forward a creative and attention-getting tactic aimed at supporting employee recruitment efforts, they quickly realized the best course of action called for coming up with as many “out-of-the-box” ideas as possible.

“Everyone’s doing the things you automatically think of – newspaper ads, billboards – and there’s nothing wrong with that,” said Superior Industries Director of Human Resources Scott Arndt. “But you’re just another fish in the sea when it comes to advertising these days. So, we had to think ‘new’ and ‘different,’ and our human resources and marketing teams were challenged with coming up with some unique ideas.”

It’s safe to say they delivered. During one of their brainstorming sessions aimed at addressing recruitment challenges, Superior’s HR and marketing teams proposed the idea of conducting live, walk-in interviews inside fish houses on a nearby lake.

“By nature, our marketing team is always thinking of new ways to draw people in, so I thought it was a great idea to pull HR in and have the two departments come together and brainstorm,” said Arndt. “We pulled the whiteboard out, and if we thought the idea was too crazy, then we just threw it out. More than anything else, though, what we were trying to do was create something that garnered discussion and interest, something that would become a talking point or bring the community together.”

A Big Success

And so, on a weekend in mid-January of this year, Superior and sister company Westmor Industries took their recruiting efforts to a pair of fish houses located just off the shoreline on Lake Minnewaska near Glennwood, Minnesota.

“We are surrounded by lakes here in Minnesota, and a lot of current and prospective employees in this area love the outdoors – hunting and fishing in particular – so when it came time for us to come up with something new and different to get the attention of the locals, this just made a lot of sense for us,” said Arndt.

Unfortunately, Mother Nature did not cooperate when the interviews began Friday, Jan. 14. The combination of snow showers and blustery winds led to a poor turnout that day. That Saturday, however, was a completely different story. Two fish houses were set up about a half-mile away from the lake’s access, and the companies ended up seeing steady – and significant – traffic all day long.

“I feel like the traffic that day, just based on how many people came and interviewed, made the event a big success,” said Arndt. “The larger success, though, came in the weeks that followed.”


Scott Arndt

““The speed of business is 10 times faster today then where it was five to seven years ago. Our ability to keep up with the world is dependent on our ability to grow people as fast as we can. So, what we've learned is, don’t be afraid to come up with seven to 10 ideas that you haven’t done before, and all you need is one or two to be a home run. Then, get people talking about those one or two good ideas – and the applicants will follow.”  -- Scott Arndt, director of human resources, Superior Industries


Building a Buzz

Given the uniqueness of the fish house interviews, company officials weren’t exactly sure what sort of results they’d end up seeing post-event. However, they were more than pleasantly surprised when the company’s careers page, its Facebook page, and its overall website began seeing significantly higher traffic. More importantly, however, Superior was able to hire 32 people in the month that followed the event. And, according to Arndt, the company is expected to bring on somewhere between 50 and 60 new employees as a direct result of its January fish house interviews.

“It’s so great that we’ve been able to hire so many people,” said Arndt. “But what’s really great is the event created a lot of discussion, both within and outside our local community. Not too long ago, I found myself about 40 miles from home wearing my Superior jacket, and someone asked about the event, which I think is really cool.”

The success of Superior’s live walk-in fish house interviews is no accident. The company’s HR and marketing teams have made a concerted effort to go above and beyond some of the tried and true strategies and tactics associated with workforce recruitment, and doing so has paid major dividends.

“We felt we needed to create a discussion and align with a significant part of our core – which is building innovation,” said Arndt. “We have tried for years to be the first to the market, to bring something to the table that is new and innovative. We just tried to take the same approach with our recruiting efforts.”

Emphasizing Workforce Retention

Fish House

There’s no overstating the importance of workforce development to the growth of Superior Industries and the work the company does to serve its customers. Not only does the acquisition of talent help the company better meet industry demand, but it also helps bring new ideas and a fresh perspective to the organization.

That’s why, according to Arndt, it’s so critical for Superior Industries to retain the employees the company attracts and acquires through its recruitment efforts. And, he said, Superior Industries goes about working to retain its workforce in a number of ways.

“As part of being a new employee at Superior Industries, you are offered developmental classes through our Superior Industries University (SIU) program,” said Arndt. “With growth comes opportunity, but with that opportunity, we, as leaders, have a responsibility to give the resources to help our next generation of leaders to grow faster.”

The company also has developed a number of other professional development opportunities aimed at helping retain its workforce, including (but not limited to):

  • Leadership training
  • Computer training
  • Drafting classes
  • Personal finance classes
  • Dale Carnegie training
  • John Maxwell Live2Lead training
  • Group/team book studies
  • Lunch and Learn sessions
  • Welding certification opportunities

“The speed of business is 10 times faster today then where it was five to seven years ago,” said Arndt. “Our ability to keep up with the world is dependent on our ability to grow people as fast as we can.”

Being Bold

The biggest impediment to success when it comes to enhancing workforce recruitment efforts is fear of failure. According to Arndt, if a company like Superior is committed to fostering an environment that builds innovation, that environment must also be one where there is freedom to fail – provided that organizational stakeholders learn from those failures. Because when push comes to shove, it’s those companies who are willing to get creative and unconventional that often see the greatest return on their investments of time, effort and resources into workforce development.

“So, what we’ve learned is, don’t be afraid to come up with seven to 10 ideas that you haven’t done before, and all you need is one or two to be a home run,” he continued. “Then, get people talking about those one or two good ideas – and the applicants will follow.”

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