Money is Not Everything

Promotion opportunities guaranteed: The packaging industry offers attractive jobs. Packaging Valley spares no effort to spark enthusiasm in skilled workers and young talent for its member companies and the industry.

The packaging industry in Germany offers crisis-proof and attractive jobs. Making this clear to young people and skilled workers is one of Packaging Valley’s main concerns. Within the packaging cluster, the approximately 100 member companies cooperate, among other things, in recruiting junior staff and skilled workers. The association tries to attract students to the region throughout Germany and is therefore on site at university days and other exhibitions as Packaging Valley. “We can tell young people that family-run companies guarantee good working structures here. Because even if the companies have 2,000 employees, they are owner-managed companies that offer security. And the region offers upward mobility for young professionals,” explains Packaging Valley Chairwoman Sabine Gauger (read an interview here).

But finding suitable managers has become increasingly challenging in recent years. This particularly affects companies in rural areas. “For highly qualified executives who are well positioned, the spatial issue takes on a high priority, simply because these candidates have enough alternatives,” says Thomas Schmitt, Managing Partner at insight International Management Consultants. Mobility among executives has steadily declined over the past few years. Commuting is on the rise, as often both partners are fully employed. “So conditions have to be created, especially by companies in rural areas, to ensure that the bait tastes good to the fish and the candidate swims into the neighboring pond.”

Sabine Gauger, who in addition to her honorary position at Packaging Valley works full-time as a management support manager at Optima Packaging Group, headquartered in Schwäbisch Hall, knows from experience how much effort it takes to find suitable employees. Optima is the prime example of a hidden champion and employs more than 2,800 people worldwide with a sales volume of 500 million euros and an export share of around 85 percent. Among other things, the company has published a 50-page “Benefits Guide” in which the filling and packaging machine manufacturer advertises the advantages and amenities for employees at the Schwäbisch Hall sites.

To name just a few: flexible working hours and individual part-time solutions, above-average salaries and profit-sharing schemes, modern, ergonomic workplaces, individual induction plans, a wide range of training opportunities, company pension schemes, capital-forming benefits, health measures as part of the work-life balance, employee events and company celebrations. At the “Night of Apprenticeships”, which was held again in the fall for the first time after a two-year break from Corona, interested school leavers and young talents were able to take home positive impressions of the participating companies. Experiences that could perhaps tip the scales when it comes to choosing a training position.

Almost as important as the live experience for employee retention and recruitment these days is social media coverage. “For us, social media is a very important tool and we post regularly. In the meantime, we are increasingly relying on moving images, which brings even more attention and followers,” explains Gauger. On LinkedIn, Optima reaches specialists and managers, journalists and, of course, customers throughout Germany and internationally. Instagram is an interesting medium, especially for young people, and on Facebook, the company’s own employees and followers from employer branding can be targeted.

The key to the success of the special machine manufacturer Syntegon in Crailsheim lies, according to its own statements, in its modern work culture: flat hierarchies, an open “you” culture and flexible work models are intended to ensure that each of the 1,150 employees is given the necessary freedom to develop further according to their own talents. Regardless of whether colleagues join the company as career starters or with many years of experience in the industry, everyone works independently on exciting projects right from the start. During the induction phase, an onboarding app provides all the necessary information for orientation in the new working day. Great importance is attached not only to a smooth career start, but also to professional development: International exchange programs with Syntegon locations worldwide – including China, India and the USA – allow employees from Crailsheim to experience exciting growth markets in the pharmaceutical industry at close quarters. They also have access to numerous training courses on various topics via the KEYPortal (Keep Educating Yourself).

Home office long practice

Home office has not only been part of everyday life at Syntegon since the pandemic, but was also widespread practice before it. The modern interior design of the offices is intended to create optimal conditions for successful collaboration. A shared desk principle, hybrid meeting and collaboration rooms, the so-called free space with a gondola and PlayStation for creative workshops and training, as well as flexible working hours are intended to ensure a pleasant working atmosphere. The approximately 1,600 employees of Harro Höfliger Verpackungsmaschinen GmbH gave their employer very good marks in the Germany-wide “Top Job” benchmark. This was the first time that the family-owned company had applied for the employer seal, which is awarded by the Institut for Leadership and Human Resource Management at the University of St. Gallen. The employees praise above all the trustful cooperation, the lived family values and the future security. The daily work routine is characterized by project-oriented work and a high degree of freedom in shaping one’s own activities: “A special feature of our company is the personal responsibility of our project teams,” reports HR Manager Uwe Amann. “A project is worked through holistically from A to Z, so our employees acquire a broad range of skills – those who need additional specialist support receive individual on-the-job training.”

Promoting talent at an early stage

The technology supplier also implements this corporate philosophy with its trainees, who are involved with responsibility in specific projects at an early stage. “We recognize talent and create development opportunities,” comments Amann. In this way, the Swabian medium-sized company also specifically promotes internal careers; according to the company, advancement from apprentice to a key or management position can take place quickly. At the Allmersbach headquarters, the company sees the sustainable development of its own junior staff as an investment in the future. An investment that pays off, knows consultant Thomas Schmitt. “Good employees are like customers: The effort to find them is much higher than the effort to keep them. Generally speaking, until a new employee is fully adding value, the time of the job vacancy and the training phase first have a negative impact.” This cost factor also weighs on the balance sheet of the plastics industry. Ingemar Bühler of Plastics Europe Germany therefore appeals to the unity of the industry: “The shortage of skilled workers is affecting the substance of our industry and jeopardizing our competitiveness. It is therefore essential to continue to significantly expand our commitment –  in cooperation with politics and society as well – in the future.”

by Karen Gellrich

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