Exclusive interview: MORSCO Director of Recruiting and Talent Management Kerri Mathews
Editor’s note: Supply House Times Editor Mike Miazga recently wrote about the hot-button industry topic of recruiting new talent into the PHCP-PVF industry. Included below is the entirety of MORSCO Director of Recruiting and Talent Management Kerri Mathews’ responses to Miazga’s questions on the subject.
Supply House Times: In your eyes how bad is the jobs situation in our industry in terms of the need to attract new employees into it? What are you seeing in your neck of the woods (your company, your customers and your customers’ customers)?
KM: A frequent conversation with MORSCO associates and customers is the increasing difficulty to find talent. It’s not uncommon to sit with a customer at one of our counters and hear about their struggles recruiting. Likewise, our associates in the field have periods of difficulty with recruitment.
As a whole, MORSCO companies have been fortunate in our efforts to source talent. It’s easy to attribute that to our experience and respected leadership and associates. However, just like many experts predicted, we are starting to feel the shortage for particular experience levels. Individuals with 10-15 years of professional experience are harder to recruit because they are preferable to many employers and have more employment options; especially when it comes to backfilling retiring leaders. Need proof? Just ask anyone around the age of 40 how often recruiters contact them on LinkedIn. I know our superstars are approached two to three times a week. We all seem to face challenges with the generation gaps.
Likewise, location can be a challenge for recruiting. In four short years, MORSCO has grown from the Texas market to a footprint stretching across the southern half of the United States. This has allowed us to watch hiring trends in many markets and it’s apparent some talent acquisition difficulties are subject to certain cities and regions. For instance, we can post a job for outside sales in a metro area and commonly get 50-75 applicants. For the same position in more rural locations, we may only get six to eight applicants. Arguably, this is not a surprise with all the relocations for employment post-recession.
I also believe there are many other factors that add to recruiting challenges besides the generational and market roadblocks. One worth noting is placement issues. During the past six months, we received an average of three to four resumes a week from candidates that are dissatisfied with their current manager or growth opportunities. They are not responding to a particular job announcement. Instead, they are proactively looking for a change and a company that matches their goals. Recruitment is all about matching talent to opportunities and if companies are not investing in their candidates career paths (not just current associates), they are losing them to companies that will. It’s our responsibility to not only interview our candidates, but also act as their advocate to make sure they are interviewing us as well and getting the best chance at making smart and suitable career changes.
Supply House Times: How is your company addressing this need?
KM: MORSCO recognizes the increasing demand on hiring managers to source and interview talent. We also recognize the need to promote from within our company and the vacuum that can create. More importantly, our CEO and leadership team are focusing resources to help our associates get the most out of their career choices. This includes more assistance with candidate sourcing, assessments, placement review and generally investing in current associates as well as potential associates.
In January, we added a recruiting and talent-development department to the array of resources available to our branches. This department operates like a third-party recruiter with the added benefit of career coaching for better placement and career development of potential associates.
As mentioned before, an increasing trend to compete with other employers is to be equally concerned about current associates and potential associates. We spend time during our recruitment process getting to know the candidate and offering resources to help them find the best fit within MORSCO. During this process, sometimes candidates find this is not the opportunity they are looking for; however, we strive to make the experience productive for them as well. This dedication early on in the hiring process has definitely generated referrals and a reputation for caring. The more people we help during the interview process, the bigger our recruitment network gets. Keeping open lines of communication throughout employment fosters a recruitment environment.
If at any time an associate feels they have reached the peak of their career with any of our MORSCO companies, we encourage them to reach out to our leaders for support. If an associate’s growth potential exceeds our resources, we welcome the open communication and their potential desire to exit to another company. This is a different approach that promotes associates looking for their own successor and opens the door to associates returning in the future. The changed perspective on associate needs and career support is key.
We understand you can’t attract new talent if you are not focusing on your current associates and growth opportunities for potential associates. We are family of companies with more than 100 years of experience within our individual operating companies. Early on, our focus was building a strong team with specific leadership and industry experience. Now, we are changing that approach and focusing on developing current associates and opening up programs for advancement. We are interviewing our current associates, as well as potential associates, and helping them with their career path through training, coaching and mentorship. Specifically, we are developing two programs designed for leadership and sales management for our associates. However, we also are emphasizing the need for professionals in every role. Not everyone wants to lead a team or be a manager. We are equally enthusiastic about their decision to be a subject-matter expert in their enduring role.
What is most important is these programs will include a cohort from a variety of backgrounds to include, but not limited to, current associates, college new hires, military veterans and other professionals from outside our industry. And we are not afraid to try new technology to meet the ever-changing job-seeking behaviors of candidates. We feel harnessing the talent we have and welcoming fresh ideas from outside our industry is just as important as recruiting from within our industry. This mix of experience helps push our company to new limits and creates a place many want to work.
Supply House Times: What types of successes have you had from these programs/initiatives you have implemented?
KM: Our success with recruiting and growing is definitely testimony to our respected leadership team and the hard-working associates that joined the MORSCO family. Some brought new ideas when their company joined MORSCO and others, after joining the team post-acquisition. Blending these companies together is bringing out the best in all of us and it brings on referrals for new associates every day. Add in our proactive approach to combating recruiting roadblocks and the result is we are insulating ourselves from talent-acquisition issues that others experience. We feel proof of this success is having referrals from individuals who have been through the recruiting process. They report having a positive experience during the recruitment process and are happy to help us find talent and are confident referring their friends and colleagues. The No. 1 reason an individual leaves their current employment to pursue opportunities with MORSCO is the desire for growth and a chance to influence their career.
Supply House Times: Your advice to companies in our industry on this particular topic?
KM: We recommend other companies foster a perspective change on associate placement and retention. Invest in people early on in the hiring process as well as during employment no matter how long that lasts at your company. Look at candidates outside your industry from various backgrounds and be willing to support them and provide them growth opportunities. Change your sourcing habits to match generational practices for job-seeking. Recognize that some associates don’t want leadership programs and honing their skills as subject-matter experts is just as rewarding for all involved.
Invest in your current associates, not only because they deserve it, but because it also creates referrals that endure recruiting challenges. Be a company that is known for being honest and helpful during the hiring process and focus on being a candidate’s advocate and not just “selling” your company.
Taking the time to care about the careers of all associates, present and future, makes recruiting easy.