The dairy manufacturing industry is expanding. That’s a fact. Yes, there are companies struggling, but by and large, many of your dairy company competitors are experiencing growth.

Whether it is a handful of positions, or hundreds of new roles, every day candidates are being interviewed, offers are being made and start dates are being set. This statement may surprise you because your competitors are not announcing to you their growth and expansion plans. Sure, you hear about some positions from industry sources, but for every one highlighted company, there are hundreds that are quietly going about their business of growing their business.

What jobs are people hiring for? In 2012, the dairy industry leaders added to their staff in several key areas: production supervisors/managers, maintenance techs, process engineers, maintenance supervisors/managers, quality managers, sales directors/managers, R&D scientists/managers, supply chain procurement, logistics managers and directors, just to name a few.

The trend in 2012 was mostly about expanding middle management leadership and senior level positions. The same roles that were cut back in the contraction of 2008 to 2009 were first to be restructured and rehired this past year.

The growth and popularity of some key dairy industry sectors like Greek-style yogurt, premium ice cream and cheeses took the dairy industry swiftly out of the recession and into a mini-dairy economic boom. This boom has resulted in many dairies adding lines, expanding their plants, adding capacity, building new facilities and trying to capitalize on the consumer appetite for new healthy, delicious and ethnic flavors in dairy.

Think of it this way: Pomegranate resulted in Production. Mango needed Maintenance. Blood Orange needed extra Buying and Sourcing.

At the beginning of 2012 companies were looking for process and packaging engineers to build the lines and facilities. Then came the need for production operators, supervisors and managers to help make those new lines hum with activity. However, even new lines have issues, and the more lines you have, the more pressure it puts on maintenance. Thus, the hiring for maintenance began.

And you can’t put out more product without quality; dairy people are big on the saying “don’t sacrifice quality for quantity!” With production going strong, then came the need for sales managers and directors to get that newly made product on the shelf. With strong sales of existing product, R&D guys were being sought to help develop new flavors and to take core product lines and find good companion expansion products.

Finally, the last half of 2012 saw a big need for supply chain, from procurement to logistics/warehousing. The thought was: let’s see if we can get these new ingredients from higher-quality sources. Companies wanted to make sure the supplier quality was there and the pricing was competitive as possible. In addition, consumers had been demanding a more natural flavor. The dairy industry was ready and willing to try and provide this in their products in 2012.

Now, all those positions mentioned above sound like they should be easy to fill, because everyone knows (or at least thinks) that with the down economy there are lots of people out there that just need a job. And of course these people would be willing to accept salary ranges that might be a little low, because these people need jobs!

Well, there was a little hitch in 2012: Everyone was going after the same pool of candidates at the same time. Hiring managers were scratching their heads on why they were having such a hard time getting an experienced dairy or yogurt or cheese maintenance tech to move across the country to make $23 an hour. The reason was because these same maintenance techs soon figured out that were 15 other companies out there that were willing to offer them $27 or $30 per hour.

Experienced dairy maintenance techs and supervisors became the holy grail of hiring. Every company wanted one (or 15). This open position frustrated many a human resources manager and many maintenance managers struggling under their heavy load because they just could not get the qualified help they needed.

So what can we look forward to in 2013? More of the same! There had been a slowdown in hiring toward the end of last year. January is the reset button for most companies with their hiring budgets, so I fully expect to see major hiring in production, engineering, maintenance, quality and sales and marketing as the engines revs again in 2013.

Here is what you need to know about filling an open position and how to avoid the struggles you experienced in 2012 in finding that perfect candidate:

  • Remember that you are not the only person hiring for and desperately needing that exact same role filled for your company.
  • Because of this, you need to quickly access and get access to the pool of candidates available before others do.
  • Schedule your interviews quickly and efficiently.
  • Follow up with your candidates in a timely manner (within seven to 10 days maximum).
  • Move your choice candidate through the process quickly and smoothly so you can present your offer first and have that candidate choose you.
  • Don’t lose those hard-to-find candidates to a slow process and a deep-pockets competitor.

If you follow these basic guidelines in 2013, you can ensure that your hiring process flows smoothly and efficiently. You will find the best possible candidate for each position that you are looking to fill. 


12th Annual Supplier Spotlights

This January 2013 issue of Dairy Foods gives you a better look at suppliers to the dairy industry that represent a variety of disciplines, from engineering and packaging to food ingredients and science plus laboratory expertise.