Welcome to our video series, The Experts. In the series, we interview staffing and recruitment leaders to hear their perspectives on industry trends, lessons they’ve learned in the careers, and their leadership philosophies.
In this clip, Bob Baer, Chief Operating Officer at BelFlex Staffing Network, shares how his firm combats the talent shortage through a free mentorship program that helps high school students build successful career paths.
What pressing industry trend keeps you up at night?
Bob Baer: What keeps me up at night is really just the shortage of talent, and not just the shortage that we need to find for our customers, but finding the next person who’s going to be our rockstar salesperson, our rockstar branch manager, the next great director of first impressions, or our administrative people in our offices. What we do at BelFlex, which may be unique, is when we have our monthly incentive programs, we include every person in those programs, whether it’s the administrative person at the front desk, up to the person running that branch. It really feeds into what we call, “succeeding together.” Those are the things that keep me up at night and we’re trying to do everything we can to make sure that we’re ahead of our competition and helping find that next great talent to come to our organization.
What priorities and investments has BelFlex made in reskilling?
BB: It’s not a matter of upskilling or reskilling, some people don’t have skillsets at all. We’ve started a bunch of different levels that began with our Belflex Junior Mentoring Programs. We’re working with the high school students to help them understand that if you don’t want to get a secondary education, it doesn’t mean that there’s not going to be opportunities for them. We’re trying to help them find that career path.
One of the big things that BelFlex did was made an almost million-dollar investment in a program called LIFT the TriState. It was a collaboration with the Freestore Foodbank and Gateway Community College that we started a free 10-week training program on forklifts, inventory, and management for them. And the LIFT name really came from uplifting them. The Freestore lives by a motto of “feeding the line and shortening the line.” One of the oldest adages in the book is to teach a person to fish instead of giving them a fish. What we’re trying to do is while they’re learning to fish, making sure that they have something to eat, and that they have transportation.
This is free for them. The thing that we’re very proud of is that we’ve had 100 percent placement of full-time jobs. We don’t mandate that they come to work for BelFlex after they complete this program, it’s actually quite the opposite. We don’t want them to have to work for us. So we’ve brought in our community partners and our customers who have been fantastic. Second chance employees have also been a big part of this. People that were stay-at-home moms and dads, military spouses that have never had to work, that are now coming into this industry for the first time, so we’re very proud of that. And then what we do is really tie our reskilling and upskilling programs into our community outreach, and we do so through three different levels. We have corporate programs, local-level programs, and then responsive programs. What we’ve found out is by doing that at a local level it really allows the people there to get that vested interest in what’s important to them and just not something that’s being forced out to them from the top down.
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