IDEAL Industries: Building a Recruiting Pipeline

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IDEAL Industries may be a traditional business, but the Sycamore, Ill., manufacturer includes some innovation in the mix when it comes to recruiting and retaining talent in the 2010s.


The Need for Skilled Labor “We always struggle with filling technical positions and leadership roles such as operations managers and engineering managers,” says Vicki Slomka, senior vice president of global human resources at the family-owned group of companies. 


IDEAL’s businesses -- which employ about 2,000 people, 70 percent of them in the United States -- design and produce goods ranging from hand tools to electrical hardware for industries ranging from automotive to alternative energy. 


“The required skills aren’t as prevalent as they used to be,” says Slomka. IDEAL is challenged by recruiting for in-demand occupations such as CNC operator, set-up operator, automation technician and maintenance mechanic


IDEAL’s website recently listed job opportunities in Illinois, Colorado and Massachusetts; the firm was looking for engineering and marketing professionals, among others.


Attracting Millennial Workers Although IDEAL doesn’t brand itself for youth, “the company’s values around people, customer and community resonate with younger workers,” Slomka says. IDEAL has built a Gen Z recruiting pipeline that extends into its local communities, including the schools. “We’re talking to students in high schools, trying to get them excited about working in manufacturing,” says Slomka.


IDEAL brings in high school interns, puts them in safety googles, gives them exposure to assembly and has them shadow technical folks to get a feel for those jobs. Promising students are encouraged to investigate technical programs at community colleges. 


For its professional ranks, the company offers college students a variety of internships and co-op programs.


Retaining Employees for the Long Term IDEAL chalks up its high employee retention rate to its thoughtful approach to longstanding employees, such as continued on-the-job training and cross-training. “For our seasoned workforce, we make sure that if they feel they can do more, we provide opportunities,” says Slomka. 


And IDEAL’s private ownership has enabled this diversified, mid-sized firm to make long-term investments in its lines of business -- and in its people. IDEAL, for example, pays some educational expenses for employees who want to pursue advanced degrees.


IDEAL’s benefits package offers an unusual wealth of benefits that appeal to older workers, with a 100-percent 401(k) match plus a pension plan, in addition to retirement counseling that includes access to on-site certified financial advisors.