NEW ORLEANS -- Finding -- and keeping -- qualified employees represents an enormous challenge for produce executives, according to a new study released during the Produce Marketing Association's Fresh Summit '98 convention here last week.
ypes of produce executives conducted by the Cornell University Food Industry Management Program exclusively for the PMA, based in Newark, Del.
In questioning respondents about the state of human resources, the executives acknowledged that the subject must be addressed more aggressively in order for a firm to survive in these increasingly competitive times.
When discussing recruitment of potential employees, those polled said it was problematic, whether recruiting for managers or for nonmanagers. Specifically, wholesalers reported difficulty recruiting managers, while grower-shippers expressed difficulty attracting nonmanagers.
When recruiting, retailers look for leadership first, followed by customer relations, and then related communication skills. On the other hand, grower-shippers and produce wholesalers reported the most desirable management skills they look for are: communication skills, initiative/problem-solving abilities and a strong work ethic.
The size of a company influenced the way the lack of qualified labor affected it. For instance, large companies in the produce industry reported feeling far less constrained by the qualified-labor shortage than smaller organizations. Grower-shippers and produce wholesalers went so far as to state that the lack of qualified employees has limited company expansion.
For small companies within the produce industry, their size may be too resource-constrained to offer fully developed human-resource programs, the poll found. Often, these companies lack structured efforts in recruiting and training, as well as "attractive" and "competitive" salary and benefit packages.
In terms of training, the most prevalent method found today in produce companies is the time-tested "on-the-job" training. This method is employed far more heavily by grower-shippers and wholesalers.