I haven’t done an exhaustive study, but I am willing to bet that Jon Dairman, director of innovation, facilities and equipment, Doughnut Peddler, Chandler, Ariz., is one of the youngest people ever to be honored with Baking & Snack’s Operations Executive of the Year award. He represents an accelerating shift in the baking industry — one of established industry veterans retiring and being replaced by a younger generation, a generation that has hesitated to enter the manufacturing industry.
There has been a lot of chatter over the years about the work ethic of younger generations, first millennials and now Generation Z, their inability to commit and their demand for flexibility. Some have accused these younger generations of carrying a sense of entitlement. But the oldest millennials are pushing 40 and stepping into management roles, and they are now able to put some of their ideals into practice as leaders: care for the individual, work with meaning and a work-life balance.
These ideals aren’t exclusively held by millennials — Mr. Dairman credits his own mentors for bequeathing them to him — but they could serve businesses well as they seek to attract and retain workers in the current labor market. There is a shift under way in the workforce with employees demanding more pay, flexibility and better working conditions.
“You have to make people want to come to work,” Mr. Dairman said. “There’s a lot of options for people to work right now. If you can make a positive environment where they enjoy the people they work around and have fun, you will have a successful company. I believe you could do almost anything.”
Mr. Dairman feels this himself. Doughnut Peddler’s fun atmosphere is what brought him back from a two-week stint trying on a new career. While that doesn’t mean making fresh daily donuts isn’t hard work, liking the people you work with and creating a product that contributes to family moments goes a long way in making that hard work worth it.
And that’s what Mr. Dairman tries to convey: a care for his employees, the product they’re making and the company. It’s that holistic approach to care that makes difficult conversations easier, like when he must correct an employee who is handling product too roughly. When he makes that correction, he reminds them why they are there.
“The memories we’re building is a cool thing; it’s something we can hang our hat on,” Mr. Dairman said. “We’re not just providing food for people to eat, but we’re providing a product that people make a special trip to the store with their kid to buy. You’re not just moving a donut to a screen. You’re participating in this memory. Without each piece of this puzzle, the whole thing falls apart. Every job on that plant floor matters.”
That level of passion about people and product is contagious, and Mr. Dairman believes if you can instill it in the employees, then the company will be successful regardless of which product is made.
“I believe if you have a team of people who cares, you’ll be successful,” he said. “It really all lies in that passion, and I believe it spreads. If you care, the people you interact with will care, and the people they interact with will care.”