Recruit, Retain, Reward Employees

With the ever-increasing competition for talent, what can companies do to attract the right individuals? It will require creative methods and incentives. We will need to reward in ways that will encourage, motivate and ultimately serve to help retain prospective employees. This is a challenge most companies are currently facing and it is critical to ensuring business stability and success as we move toward reaching our goals.

When I was recruited to come to SUN Automation Group I was not sold on the corrugated industry. However, at that time SUN was establishing itself as an OEM and investing in its future. From being an ESOP to strategic business restructuring and ultimately investing in land and additional resources, I knew regardless of industry that this was an organization I was willing to devote my time to.

Having now entered my tenth year, I can humbly say that I recognize and appreciate the industry itself. It’s something I can’t quite express – like describing the taste of an apple to someone who has never eaten one. The corrugated industry was my first bite into that apple. I thought I knew what to expect. I had spent my first 25 years in other related B2B spaces, from food and beverage to hardware and insurance. I can assure you the greatest of these is corrugated. It’s easy to take for granted something as simple as a box. Recently we learned just how valuable our industry is to the entire world. However, what makes it even more special is the relationships and comradery that is felt throughout. One that expands our individual jobs and continents. Having the privilege to be part of AICC, and engaged with other associations throughout the world, I have even more respect for our industry and the folks in it.

We know we have a lot to offer prospective employees and the industry has invested greatly in talent recruitment and advertising to generate general public awareness. Many of our fellow associates and general members created diverse work incentives and in-house programs to entice new recruits interested in R & D or rising green initiatives. We’ve partnered with colleges and engaged in new social media channels to attract younger talent. There is a renewed commitment to employee recruiting overall.

However, recruiting someone is only half the battle. How do you reward and retain talent once they’re through the door? Everyone has a different love language, and for many the initial thought goes to compensation; however I have come to realize it’s more the opportunity to impact a business. They want to feel valued. We have been fortunate at SUN to hire individuals over the last five years that I never thought we would be able to recruit to our company. Early into conversations with new recruits it was made clear that they wanted to be somewhere that their voices were heard, and they could make an impact. We just needed to create the opportunity. All companies are structured differently, and having a strong servant leader culture backed by 150 employees headquartered in the United States has its advantages to achieving that. Regardless, I believe allowing your team to be empowered is critical to success.

Beyond creating a value-driven business model, another great reward / retention tool that many of you should consider – which is tied to finances – is an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). This was an incentive that was pitched to me when I was being recruited for SUN in 2012. An ESOP allows for employees to be rewarded for company growth and establishes accountability throughout the organization. Employees gain shares in the company every year so everyone has an interest in how we are performing financially because it impacts their individual bottom line. Having worked for a Fortune 500 company and now an ESOP, I can honestly say it is an entirely different mindset. It’s much easier for the individual to see and respect the value in every job, and to have the desire to work together as a collective, when the results are shared.

No matter how you recruit, retain and reward your employees, stay vigilant in your efforts and look for unique ways to separate from your competition. Whether it’s through an ESOP or value-driven initiatives that fuel employee growth and training, it’s important to understand employees want more than paycheck. It’s our job as leaders to help them feel valued and create an atmosphere where they see the potential in giving their time and talent to organizations like ours.

Greg Jones is the Executive Vice President of SUN Automation Group. With a pulse on corrugated market demands, Jones is Vice Chairman of AICC’s executive board. Prior to joining SUN in 2012, he spent over 15 years in the manufacturing and packaging sector focused on delivering equipment and material load containment solutions to clients across various sectors.

Originally published in AICC Box Score,  March 2022