Personnel consultant offers different approach to finding staff

Published on Sep 3, 2019 in Wire Journal International

In WJI’s first Industry Hotshots feature, Peter Carino, Wire Resources, Inc., discussed the challenges manufacturers have getting and keeping younger staffers. That situation, he notes, has not improved much since then, but below he proposes a different direction, one that he believes some manufacturers might find helpful.

Peter Carino

Two years ago, I wrote about young people working in the cable industry and the challenges associated with both hiring and retaining them as long-term employees. This time, I want to discuss hiring again, but by approaching it from a different direction, a topic that borders on taboo: employees of an older age.

A major portion of cable industry technical expertise, tribal knowledge, and overall manufacturing wherewithal lies in industry veterans in the late 50s bracket. Although this fact seemingly makes this generation marketable, I find in my work that employers sometimes will either shy away from or not be as receptive to considering an older candidate. Now obviously they can’t verbalize this for fear of legal backlash, but it’s a concern easily gleaned from the subtext of our conversations.

A pretty typical call for me to receive, especially from small to mid-size cable manufacturers, sounds like this: “Pete, our VP of Manufacturing (or sales or engineering) is retiring. There are several people on our executive staff over 60 years old, so we need to hire someone who will be here when the rest of us retire over the next four to six years.”

Is this a conversation about age discrimination or good succession planning and common sense? In a small company in particular, it’s essential to have employees of various ages throughout the organization. Even in a scenario like this, I often find myself advocating for the advantages that come from hiring, or at least considering, a long-time industry veteran.

As an employer, it’s obviously important to obtain a deep understanding of a candidate’s past performance and abilities. However, equally important is understanding where they are with regards to their career and work-life aspirations. Usually an older candidate will bring this up when I’m speaking with them initially about a particular opportunity. Everyone knows conversations about age are taboo, but self-disclosing your desire to continue working can only help. If a candidate has the work ethic and energy level required to proficiently fulfill a role and can dedicate another eight to ten years, does it really matter how old he or she is?

Following are four real-world, practical reasons I believe companies should consider before ruling out older candidates.

• Availability. They probably are “empty nesters.” This means there are no afterschool activities to attend, sick children to pick up in the middle of the day, or any of the other numerous duties of being a good parent that can potentially take away from a regular work day.
• Relocations. This is less of an issue as they may have or want to downsize their home. Renting is also a common option these days. Home ownership is not seen as the Holy Grail like it once was. Relocating a young family with children is never easy or inexpensive.
• Corporate ambitions. An older candidate is probably not as interested in climbing the career ladder. The desire to “enjoy what I do and who I do it with” is echoed in the conversations I have with older candidates all of the time. They also won’t be jumping ship or looking to use a position as a stepping stone.
• Experience. They possess a vast amount of knowledge and typically are willing to share it more freely. Older candidates come with a maturity and wisdom that can benefit those around them as they act as mentors for younger generations.

Diversity of all kinds, including age, can only benefit a company. These differences ensure that ideas are fresh and solutions to problems are varied as it provides a collection of voices with a variety of backgrounds and points-of-view.

I’ve seen this first-hand. I think back to a placement I made eight years ago for a director of engineering position. He was a 39-year-old engineer with a Ph.D. (let’s call him Tom) from a prestigious university who came with previous cable industry experience. His new employer was a small, niche cable manufacturer that was recently purchased by a large global manufacturer.

Tom had a long-time cable engineer as one of his direct reports. I had placed this engineer at the same company 25 years earlier. After Tom was on the job a couple months, I called to see how things were going, and specifically, asked about his relationship with this older engineer. He said, “I tell him all the time, ‘Please don’t retire because I learn something from you every day.’”

Tom saw this engineer as a valuable resource, and he was. He had a wealth of knowledge accumulated over years of in-the-trenches experience. That veteran engineer never had to look for another job but if he had, a reference from his boss would quickly neutralize any bias that might be associated with age. Yet having the “tools” is only part of the equation, so here’s some specific guidance I give older candidates to help make themselves as marketable aspossible.

• Be upfront. Don’t try to hide your age on the resume by leaving dates off education or previous places of employment.
• Be vetted. Get a few reference s from the last 10 years of work history who can speak specifically about your accomplishments, people skills and energy level. Nothing is more important!
• Be tech savvy. You want to do reports or use the CRM with skill and ease. We live in an age where you can learn any program for free with the help of the internet and YouTube.
• Be flexible. Just because you are bringing years to the table doesn’t mean you corner the market on knowledge. Be receptive to other’s ideas and ways of doing things.
• Take care of yourself. Aesthetics aren’t the motivation here. Being fit gives us the energy we need to do our jobs and maintain a healthy work-life balance. And, if we’re being candid, a physically fit, older person who is well groomed and smartly dressed will have an edge over a candidate that fits the ageist stereotypes people have in their heads.

Peter Carino, Wire Resources, Inc., can be contacted
at tel. 203-622-3000 or cell 203-962-2001,
pcarino@wireresources.com or at
linkedin.com/in/petercarino1.

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Where are all the good employees…and how do you keep them?

WireResourcesInc-PeterCarino-2017

Peter Carino

Published on Sep 30, 2017 in Wire Journal International

Industry, fortunately, is more than just equipment and orders, and the quality of staff has been called by some industry veterans as the biggest differentiator. Below, Peter Carino, the principal of Wire Resources, Inc., who has 35 years of experience in wire and cable recruiting, shares his thoughts.

WJI: How hard is it for you to find young professionals with two or three years of wire and cable experience?
Carino: Non-technically degreed, young professionals are scarce in the cable industry. Degreed engineers with two or three years of wire and cable experience are like hen’s teeth. It’s common for a cable manufacturer to have not one technically degreed engineer with a couple of years of experience. I don’t believe it’s any more difficult to hire young professionals today, but it’s undeniable that today’s young people move from job to job at a greater rate than a generation ago. They are more often renters of housing, not buyers, and marry at a later age and are less tied down.

WJI: Are companies more willing to hire someone just out of college? Do internship programs matter?
Carino: Larger cable producers are more likely to hire young grads. You see it occasionally at smaller cable firms, but those companies may not have the luxury of investing the time and training needed to get those young employ- ees to a point where they are contributing to the bottom line. If a recent grad has an internship at a cable company, it would certainly be an attraction. The  experience-and  more importantly, the interest in a possible career in the cable industry-is a plus.

WJI: In real estate, the mantra is “Location, location, location.” Does that apply to wire and cable too?
Carino: To some extent. If a cable plant is in a very rural location, it will appeal to a smaller pool of potential candidates. If it’s in an area with all of the amenities it will appeal to a larger group. However, if the cost of liv- ing is too high, the candidate pool again becomes small. A person getting started or an employee with a family both want to live in an area that offers the lifestyle they seek, with proximity to what’s important to them, e.g., schools, social life and facilities. The dynamic of work versus personal life is more intertwined than ever.

WJI: When companies come to you to seek a candidate, can their requests be unrealistic?
Carino: Occasionally, and if so I’ll tell them why, giving specific examples. Requests can be unrealistic for a variety of reasons. Typically, it’s base compensation, incentive, relocation assistance or an unusual skill set they seek. However, there are other factors, like historical company turn over, industry reputation and location that potential candidates, will take into consideration when determining what the company has to “offer.”

WireResourcesInc-PeterCarino-We-are-Hiring-2017WJI: The wire and cable industry tends to be overshadowed by other glitzier fields, yet you have said more than once that it often has more potential: what do you mean by that?
Carino: When I speak with a young person working in the cable business, I encourage them not to leave. I tell them that there is more potential and opportunity to grow in their field as there is less competition from similar age peers. The cable business was run “lean” long before it became fashionable and therefore the young hire, who is one of few, will be exposed to more things and at a faster rate. A deeper, more well-rounded experi- ence in a shorter period of time is probable. One can leverage that experience for accelerated career growth.

WJI: Is it harder for a company to hire a young staffer?
Carino: I believe it’s harder to hire the young grad, especially if it’s an engineer. A career in wire and cable manufacturing is not on the radar of most new grads. Secondly, you have to pay market value. Other industries tend to pay equal or greater wages than the cable industry. You compete with other industries for the educational background, perceived potential and the candidate’s “soft skills” you feel they possess.

WJI: When people come to you looking for a new job, is the goal inevitably to get a bigger paycheck?
Carino: Current compensation typically is not the pri- mary motivator when a gainfully employed person calls me looking for a new job. Obviously, money is important but that’s not the first thing I usually hear. The company direction and how that message is conveyed to its employees is a big factor. Does the company operate with a short term view or does it have a reputation and strategy for long-term growth? Maybe the path for advancement is no longer available for the plant manager who wants that vice president of manufacturing position, but his boss has been with the company 15 years and “isn’t going any- where.” A caustic relationship with the boss, regardless of who is at fault, is always a motivator for job change.

WJI: What can a company do to maintain key staffers?
Carino: No one gets a more honest exit interview than someone in my position. Employees don’t want to burn a bridge when they leave a company. When HR asks them what prompted their move, they will give a generic, fairly benign response: better opportunity, more money, closer to home. Those reasons are probably true but typically there is an underlying factor that won’t be stated. Employees want to feel like they are truly a part of the team. They want a clear message and strategy even though they understand that priorities can and will change. They want their input recognized and at least considered. Some companies openly display goals and milestones that detail company performance. Employees like to know where they stand, and more importantly, how their actions affect those goals, and ultimately, their total compensation. Knowing your employees on a personal level can be very helpful. When a senior executive puts in the time to talk and listen to employees from the plant floor on up, it usually bodes well for company morale. I have walked through dozens of wire and cable plants with the plant manager or a senior executive. You can usually tell what type of relationship exists between the plant floor and management by listening and seeing their casual interactions.

WJI: What was not asked above that you feel is worth noting?
Carino: There are certain cable manufacturers that have a history of low turnover, which typically equates to employees taking greater ownership of their responsibilities and going the extra mile more often. You want your employees to work like they own the company. That’s the reason ESOPs have very little turnover. An ESOP employee is likely to have an entrepreneur’s work ethic and vision, which is tough for the competition to beat. There is a small ESOP cable manufacturer that has never had an unprofitable year or an employee leave their company to join another firm. Every past employee either retired from the company or passed away. That performance and level of commitment is tough to dispute!

Peter Carino, Wire Resources, Inc., can be contacted at tel. 203-622-3000, pcarino@wireresources.com or at linkedin.com/in/petercarino1

WireResourcesInc-PeterCarino-Stranding-and-Cabling-2017v

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Filling positions takes more than the latest social media

 

Peter Carino

Peter Carino

The below piece is by Peter Carino, co-principal of Wire Resources, Inc., a U.S. wire and cable industry placement firm based in Connecticut. (Click links to contact Peter)

pcarino@wireresources.com

www.wireresources.com
www.linkedin.com/in/petercarino1/

There was a time for our office when wire and cable manufacturers were concentrated in certain areas, such as New Jersey, Connecticut and especially Massachusetts. Candidates could make several changes in employers over their career and never have to relocate. However, hiring the best qualified talent has never been that easy, which is why we have been in business 40 years.

It’s always been difficult to find a good candidate for an engineering post, and it’s gotten tougher in recent years. The law of supply and demand is in a candidate’s favor. It  is not unusual for a cable company to go months not being able to fill an engineering opening. The cable industry just does not attract young degreed engineers in any great quan- tity. It’s competing against sexier/higher tech industries, such as medical, that have a greater capacity to grow and sustain U.S.-based manufacturing.

In some respects our company has not changed much in terms of how it finds a good candidates. We embrace tech- nology and media, but first and foremost we believe that trust and confidence is what matters, and that it is still best developed with a voice or a face-to-face relationship. We  are always cultivating new partnerships with industry pro- fessionals. We have relationships that span decades and entire careers. We have a database that chronicles thousands of cable professionals throughout their careers.

There are current industry presidents and vice presidents who we placed early in their cable careers. We have built t be  equaled by friending them on Facebook or sending them a tweet. Yes, we do use multi-media, but it is a supporting tool for what we do.

From what our experience has shown, companies like our approach. Most companies want to see the entire talent pool, not just the active job seeking candidates that are very
high visibility. We reach a person who is well entrenched in what they do but is interested in a particular type of opportunity. This person is not surfing social media and job boards.
t get me wrong, thousands of jobs are filled that way, s just not the kind of job search request we typically get.

Looking forward, we expect that in the next five to six years there will be many cable producers who will see a large percentage of its top management retiring. Many of these firms do not have the personnel internally to fill those voids, and small- to medium-size cable firms are probably the most vulnerable. We are currently engaged in two searches with companies looking to make hires that will ultimately replace a president and a vice president of sales in four to five years.

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