Emily Bowers, director of education for BEMA.

It’s the burning question in the baking industry: How to fill the workforce gap?

As the generational shift moves ever closer, baking companies everywhere are searching for tools to attract and retain talent. At the American Society of Baking (ASB)’s BakingTech 2017 conference, Emily Bowers, director of education for BEMA, identified areas where organizations can focus in order to develop its current workforce and also attract new talent.

In fact, a recent study from “Insights Discovery” revealed that one in four companies is making talent development a top business priority. Developing talent requires investment, but it’s better than the alternative. There’s no arguing that losing employees is expensive, and it affects the bottom line.

First, Ms. Bowers suggested identifying – and then nurturing – the corporate culture. “Company culture is a behavior of people within an organization and the meaning that people attach to those behaviors,” she explained. “Think of culture as a combination of vision, values, norms, vision, symbols, systems, language, assumptions, beliefs and habits.”

Whether positive or negative, companies tend to organically develop their culture and can often be clearly visible to people outside the organization, and that’s going to affect the kinds of potential employees they will attract.

So where does culture come from? Leaders — their behaviors, what they pay attention to, where and how they distribute rewards/punishment, and how they allocate to resources – create culture.

Be aware, Ms. Bowers said, culture is not something like a company outing or a bean bag chair at your desk. These types of things are motivators and are often born out of culture.

More complex motivators lie in advancement opportunities and professional development. “Everyone feels motivated when they’re working toward something – a better position, a raise, a bonus – something tangible,” Ms. Bowers said. “It will help them climb the ladder and also fill these positions where we’re seeing gaps.”

From the basic to complex, motivators could be done at a low cost or be something that requires investment, depending on the culture. Regardless, motivator must incentivize. “Provide something people don’t currently have – and that they want,” Ms. Bowers suggested.

With something to work toward, people need the proper tools that empower them to get there. Training strategies such as mobile-based applications, real-time shared documents, adaptive learning and training videos will resonate with younger workers and keep them engaged.

One important thing to remember, Ms. Bowers said, is that training and professional development must always be in line with the companies business objectives. And that leads to one common thread that must be found throughout all talent development programs: communication.

In many ways, employee retention can boil down to communication. In fact, Ms. Bowers said, “Basic communication can go a long way.” Employers that empower, engage and communicate were the ones that will stand the best chance of retaining.

For more information on the training and development programs that BEMA offers, visit www.bema.org/bema-u.