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Recruitment trends and best practices in commercial baking explored in new U.S. study

January 3, 2022  By Bakers Journal


Washington, D.C. – A joint study by the American Bakers Association and the American Society of Baking suggests employers in the U.S. baking industry are turning more and more to online job boards, social media and partnerships with schools to recruit staff.

The 2021 Workforce Gap in U.S. Commercial Baking: Recruitment Trends & Best Practices, conducted in October 2021 by Cypress Research, assesses challenges and best practices for workforce recruitment.

There has been a significant increase in companies using formal employee referral programs, social media channels, and virtual or in-person local career fairs to attract hourly, skilled production employees.

Top 5 recruitment challenges

The 2021 findings help baking employers better understand the current recruitment trends for hourly, skilled production employees and how they have changed in the past five years. The study also explores new in-depth industry data on the recruitment of drivers and hourly, unskilled production employees.

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The top 5 recruitment challenges for commercial baking employers have not changed in the last five years. Identifying talent pools and building awareness about baking manufacturing careers have remained primary recruitment challenges for hourly skilled and unskilled production positions. However, baking employers have expanded their recruitment strategies to address these challenges. In comparison to 2016, there has been a significant increase in companies using formal employee referral programs, social media channels, and virtual or in-person local career fairs to attract hourly, skilled production employees.

Baking employers are also seeking to reach new audiences who may not be aware of baking manufacturing careers. This outreach includes second chance workers who are being introduced to baking careers at growing rates. The number of baking companies with some or considerable focus on recruiting second chance workers has increased from 38 per cent in 2016 to 78 per cent in 2021.

Growing branding and culture

Baking employers are investing in strategies to foster a positive work environment and culture. Most companies reported implementing these strategies in several ways, including via internal company websites or social media channels to connect employees and encourage collaboration and teamwork. In addition, baking employers are growing awareness of their brands and the workplace cultures they foster by hosting company-specific career fairs, both in-person and virtual. In 2016, only 28 per cent of companies were doing so, while in 2021, that has increased to 69 per cent.

The top recruiting strategy in 2021 is online job boards.

Key findings

1. The top 5 recruitment challenges for baking employers have not changed in the last five years. Identifying talent pools and building awareness about baking manufacturing careers have remained as some of the primary recruitment challenges for hourly skilled and unskilled production positions. Up to two-thirds of baking employers anticipate the challenges will continue to be significant for their companies over the next five years.

2. Baking employers have expanded their portfolio of recruitment strategies to address workforce challenges. Since 2016, there has been a significant increase in the number of companies using formal employee referral programs, social media channels, virtual or in-person local career fairs, and company-specific career fairs to attract hourly, skilled and unskilled production employees.

3. The top recruiting strategy in 2021 is online job boards. 98  per cent of employers are using online job boards, such as BakingWorks.org, to recruit for hourly skilled production positions and 90  per cent for hourly unskilled production employees.

4. Baking employers are reporting high to severe shortages among company drivers. 50  per cent of baking companies predict the high to severe shortage of drivers will continue into the future.

5. Company-specific career fairs have significantly grown in popularity among employers. Only 28  per cent of baking companies were hosting virtual or in-person career fairs for hourly skilled positions in 2016, while 69  per cent of companies are now doing so.

6. Employers’ focus on recruiting female talent to baking manufacturing careers has risen dramatically. In 2021, 96  per cent of baking employers have a focus on recruiting women – a 22  per cent increase from 2016.

7. Baking employers are investing in strategies to foster a positive workplace environment and culture. Most companies reported that they have implemented these strategies, including via internal company websites or social media channels to connect employees, and encouraging collaboration and teamwork.

8. Second chance workers are being introduced to baking careers at growing rates. The share of baking companies with some or considerable focus on recruiting second chance workers has increased 40  per cent since 2016.

9. More baking employers are taking a new approach to the qualifications needed for skilled production employees. 77  per centof companies have redefined their qualifying criteria to include candidates who may lack some of the required skills but demonstrate the potential to acquire them on the job. Only 59  per cent of companies in 2016 were utilizing this strategy.

10. The relationship between schools and industry employers is becoming stronger. Baking employers who have relationships with two-year technical colleges and/or local vocational high school programs has increased in the past five years to 77  per cent and 65  per cent respectively.

“The baking industry has been dedicated to introducing Americans across the country to rewarding baking manufacturing careers,” said Robb MacKie, ABA president and chief executive officer. “Our industry’s most important ingredient is our workforce and this study gives baking employers new insights to grow this community of 800,000 essential employees.”

The 2021 Workforce Gap in U.S. Commercial Baking: Recruitment Trends & Best Practices study was produced jointly by the American Bakers Association and the American Society of Baking, in conjunction with Cypress Research, as a resource for ABA and ASB Members.


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