Training programs are key to bakery talent retention

by Joanie Spencer
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Bakery training
Mr. Vial encouraged tenured bakers to provide opportunities and teach the baking process to young bakers.

CHICAGO — If you could go back in time — back to when you first joined the baking industry — and could write your own business card with your ideal title and job description, what would it have said? And how far would it have been from how your business card reads today?

As the industry faces a generational shift, it’s time for seasoned bakers to help new bakers write that business card and take steps toward achieving it. And unlike how it was for those seasoned professionals, the curve has shortened.

At BakingTech 2016, held Feb. 28-March 1 in Chicago, Steve Vial, director of baking technology, Bimbo Bakeries USA, Horsham, Pa., and a member of AIB International’s Education Advisory Board, cautioned attendees on the importance of getting young bakers up to speed faster.

Steve Vial, Bimbo Bakeries, AIB International
Steve Vial, director of baking technology for Bimbo Bakeries USA

“We need to shorten the gap on the time that’s needed to have a front-line leader ready in terms of technical skills and basic leadership fundamentals,” he said in his presentation on managing talent development. “We must continue to look for ways to get bakers somewhat seasoned in a shorter timeframe to pass on the knowledge and science that typically comes from many years of experience.”

The key, Mr. Vial suggested, is focusing on what skills millennial bakers bring to the table and how today’s bakeries can adjust their recruitment and retention methods to minimize turnover and keep the next generation solidly grounded in the industry.

When the U.S. turnover rate is more than 23%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the cost to replace an employee can be up to five times that employee’s salary, proper recruitment and retention are critical to a successful business strategy.

“The objectives of an effective talent development model include creating a model to enable operations with the right talent, in the right place and at the right time, to achieve the right results,” Mr. Vial explained. The model also must be self-sufficient at the plant level and feed manufacturing priorities at all levels. A training plan also must be individualized, based on the needs of the operations. Lastly, and most importantly, the model must cover current and future talent needs that will enhance leadership, management and technical skills and ultimately lead to upward mobility.

When research from Deloitte Consulting indicates that 66% of millennial workers say they expect to have changed employers in four years, retention is of real concern in the bakery workforce. Now more than ever, front-line workers should be groomed to take on more responsibility in a much tighter timeframe.

“Our front-line leaders have become the glue that connects strategic priorities to the tactical work of the associates,” Mr. Vial explained. “In order to have sufficient training at all levels, a process should include safety, technical skill and leadership training.” This should happen at all levels and functions of plant staffing, he added.

“We really can’t take 15 to 20 years to develop young bakers,” he said. “We need to help them understand the science of baking much quicker. If you tell people today they won’t be seasoned pros for 15 or 20 years, they’ll just move on.”

While young bakers carry a responsibility to play an active role in their professional development — writing their perfect business card — tenured bakers also should step up to provide opportunities and teach the process. The more bakeries that subscribe to a culture of talent development, Mr. Vial said, the better chance the industry has of keeping “job hopping” within the baking industry.
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