High school students tour PMG’s Industrial Molds facility.
by Lindsey Munson, editor, Plastics Business

A leading manufacturer is raising the bar when it comes to recruitment and retention, and its strategy is not complicated – focus on the employee journey straight out of the gate!

Responding with Action

Pyramid Molding Group (PMG) a nimble and adaptive company in Rockford, Illinois, is independently owned and operates on the concept of “growing its own talent.” PMG is the parent company of Industrial Molds and Pyramid Plastics, combining the talent and expertise of toolmaker and molder with over 50 years in the plastics industry.

In 2020, when the job market tightened due to the pandemic, PMG responded by evaluating employee compensation, restructuring benefits to deliver top-of-the-line options and making adjustments in its entry-level plastic machine operator roles. These smart, necessary and simple tactics were focused on investing and responding to employees’ hard work and skill development – building a strategy centered on attracting, recruiting and retaining in-demand, highly skilled talent in the industry.

PMG employees saw their pay increase on average by 18.1% in 2021; this created a competitive pay opportunity against industry competitors. Additionally, “We introduced an employee referral program of $1,500 per hired referral, paid out in three installments over six months,” said Becca Peterson, PMG director of sales. “According to Chris Paulson, our human resource specialist, we have hired 12 referrals so far, from skilled to entry-level positions.”

Brook Pond, PMG corporate recruiter said, “We believe in investing in our people!”

The Building Blocks to Recruitment Success

With what once was a one-person human resources department, PMG leadership knew the company needed to adapt to the challenging times and hired a full-time recruiter. “We had a vision for the position,” Peterson said. “This talented individual would manage the full-cycle recruiting process, including posting job descriptions, initiating screening calls, scheduling interviews and facilitating offers and employment negotiations.”

Peterson elaborated, “The recruiter also builds a candidate pipeline of ‘active’ and ‘passive’ talent by finding and screening candidates and tracking them in PMG’s applicant tracking software. This person is public-facing, partnering with local high schools, colleges and technical schools to gain access to emerging students. This individual also needed to be able to sell the benefits of joining our team.”

Pond joined the team in 2022. With her on board and Paulson in place for HR support, PMG now has its human resources department set up for success and the skills in place to manage the full-cycle recruiting process to deliver efficiently and effectively, from filtering applications to interviewing candidates and then onboarding top talent for the company. Sounds easy, right? Not so fast! A recruiter is challenged with locating the future of a company and is the pillar, Pond said, of PMG’s recruitment efforts. “When searching for new employees, it’s not a search for ‘talent,’ but rather for a candidate who will fit with the company culture and shows potential,” she said. “From there, the employee can be trained.”

When mapping out a recruitment plan, it is key to know what to do and what not to do – or what a company should stop doing. This requires evaluating the internal and external workings of the company and then taking actionable steps to adjust the plan. Peterson said, “We made decisions about what we’re not doing anymore: No more print ads, and no more job fairs. They have been non-existent over the last two years due to COVID-19 and still have not bounced back.”

PMG also restructured to better meet current and potential employees in the middle, offering them value-added positions and growth opportunities. Peterson elaborated: “Paulson helped us move from a temp-to-hire model at Pyramid Plastics to direct hire only about one year ago. We previously had staffed about eight to 12 temporary employees at any given time. Hiring direct allowed us to increase our entry-level, starting wages and gain control over the messaging and value proposition being communicated to potential new hires. New hires also receive benefits upon hire in, instead of having to wait to complete the 90-day temp-to-hire period.”

By being intentional with its recruitment strategy, PMG and its parent companies now have the building blocks for success in hiring skilled talent and industry professionals who contribute to its positive company culture and deliver results.

Connecting and Collaborating

Peterson credits social media efforts for some of PMG’s recruitment advancements. “We have tried to grow our social media following organically, including Facebook and LinkedIn,” she said. “We doubled our LinkedIn following from 551 followers in November of 2021 to 1,041 followers today. We encourage our employees to follow us and re-share our posts with their network.”

Beyond the internet, PMG knows the importance of connecting with a handshake and face-to-face conversations. Pond said, “We have focused a lot of energy on connecting with youth in our community. As manufacturing is not always the first career path for young adults, and students seem to be more encouraged to pursue other fields, we are trying to engage with local high school and community college students to show them the value of working in manufacturing.”

To aid in deepening that connection, PMG has thrown its doors wide open to expand its recruitment pool with the next generation of the industry. “If they are interested, we are happy to offer them tours and connect them with any open positions,” Pond explained.

The cornerstones of PMG’s evolution in its recruitment success are the collaborative efforts with its community partners and schools and its outreach to the next generation of potential manufacturers. Connecting these efforts for PMG starts in-house, with employees and leadership giving face-time to Rockford’s local high schools, technical schools and the college, creating partnerships and providing incentive offers, such as $5,000 per year tuition reimbursement. Company leadership works with Rockford Public Schools’ College and Career Academy to assist with student mock interviews; offer half-day job shadows for juniors and seniors with an interest in engineering; and open its doors for plant tours.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

PMG deploys key retention actions, building its philosophy on a company culture that is evident and inclusive the moment a new employee walks through its doors. “We welcome our new hires with a gift bag of goodies and a handwritten note,” said Peterson.

The effort to make new employees feel an immediate connection with their new employer doesn’t stop there. “Our recruiter conducts a seven-day new employee check-in, and our recruiter and human resource specialist conduct a 30-day check with all new hires (hourly and salaried employees),” Peterson said. “This is a scheduled meeting with our new hires to find out how they’re liking the position so far, where they see themselves going with the company in terms of career goals and if there are any concerns that need to be addressed.”

Continuing, Peterson noted, “We want to not just say that we care, we want to show it and establish open lines of communication.”

When a company creates job roles that have specified advancement opportunities, coupled with leadership communication, employees have the potential to grow and prosper, which increases retention rates. Peterson shared, “We have an advancement program for entry-level machine operators at Pyramid Plastics. Once they reach certain levels of training, they receive an increase – it’s not just a yearly increase based on tenure; instead, the pay is for performance and there are three levels they can attain.”

She continued, “Beyond this, we always try to promote from within, whether it’s into our quality or logistics department. We look to train and promote dedicated employees who fit into our work culture, rather than hiring from outside.”

PMG sponsors employees at Industrial Molds who would like to get their Journeyman Tool and Die Certification through Rock Valley College, which entails night classes over a number of years. Peterson said, “The company pays for tuition and books, and the employee receives not only the certification but also its associate’s degree. We just had four employees start the program!” In addition, Pyramid Plastics offers employees an opportunity to increase their skills through online training offered through Paulson Training Programs, Inc.

Passionate not only about retaining its employees but also about growing and developing them, PMG has emphasized connection – both on the job and in the community. Peterson said, “We have quarterly meetings for communication and hold holiday meals to get everyone together. Last year, we had our first companywide Christmas party in over 10 years. We also encourage employees to network and facilitate their involvement in outside organizations for their own personal and professional growth.”

The Work Never Ends

PMG is far from done “growing its own” – a concept that is the driving force behind the company’s recruitment and retention success. “Our customers keep us motivated to consistently keep employee recruitment and retention front of mind,” Pond said. “We don’t ever want to be forced to turn away a new customer due to staffing shortages.”

With customers in the queue and job opportunities abundant, it’s important now more than ever to have a recruitment and retention strategy. PMG and its parent companies – Pyramid Plastics and Industrial Molds – have made the investment by creating internal positions focused on hiring; recognizing the importance of connecting with new and future employees; and rewarding the efforts of current employees.