Hiring Tomorrow's Workforce Means Reinventing the Corporate Culture
Lately, a common question I keep hearing around my company is, "How do you know all of this?"
By John Collins
Lately, a common question I keep hearing around my company is, “How do you know all of this?” It comes from many of the new hires seeking guidance from veterans who have been around for literally decades. The fact is, a lot of information is necessary to simply complete a task such as entering a customer’s order or buying material for the manufacturing of product - something that can be taken for granted by us “old timers” and seen as insurmountable by the “greenhorns.”
Like many companies in our industry and others, we are saying good-bye to the baby boomers who were with us for most of their careers. With their departure, not only are our skills diminished but our sense of history is lost and our corporate culture disrupted. Filling these vacancies can prove a daunting task because how does someone replace a skilled employee with decades of experience - someone who not only knew how to do the job but also how it has evolved?
The water and wastewater industries are a world unto themselves. The candidates coming through our doors and presenting resumes hardly know anything about what we do. In water, the only things visible to the public are fire hydrants and water towers. Wastewater is even more obscure because the only thing the public is aware of is the occasional bad smell.
This phenomenon poses a clear and present danger to our efficiencies. We are losing not only our skilled workers but our trainers as well. Mentoring is not only for the Millennial just entering the work force but for the Generation X employee with twenty plus years of experience in another industry that did not fare as well during the Great Recession. Fortunately water and wastewater are base industries and many companies weathered the storm better than others, the oil and gas industry being the latest victim of global economic pressures.
It is important to hire people who have a proven track record to learn because what we do is essential to the health and wellbeing of people all over the world. Although these new employees may lack education in the technical background of our specific industries, they bring other strengths: positivity, energy, and intelligence. This is our opportunity to reinvent any stagnant procedures, to jumpstart corporate culture with new input, and reinvigorate the company veterans who are now charged with managing and mentoring the new hires.
One of my greatest challenges is explaining pipe sizes - nominal vs. actual outside diameter. To people with decades of experience in the industry, it’s common knowledge. But, I can remember my first days on the job and hearing this for the first time: “PVC pipe is called schedule or class pipe, which is made to IPS OD’s, which means Iron Pipe Size but in reality is steel pipe OD’s. But C-900 is also made out of PVC and has ductile iron OD’s, which is not the same as cast iron OD’s or IPS. Now HDPE can also be made in IPS or DI OD’s and AC pipe can have two OD’s on the same joint of pipe.”
If your new hire can decipher that or something similar in a short period of time, there is a good probability that you made the right choice and the rookie will progress quickly in an industry that can provide them a long career they can be proud of.
About the Author: John Collins is vice president of sales for JCM Industries Inc. in Nash, Texas, and a WWEMA Board Member.