Investing in the Future of Food: ForceBrands shares how to recruit & retain talent on a startup’s budget

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Startup company Recruitment

In today’s strong labor market, many cash-strapped startups are unable to compete with big food for top talent based on salary, but according to the specialized recruitment firm ForceBrands that doesn’t mean they have to settle for second best.

According to ForceBrands’ recently released Talent Market Report, which is based on a survey of more than 500 full-time professionals across the CPG industry, we are currently in one of the strongest labor markets in years – making it difficult for food and beverage companies of all sizes to attract and retain talent.

But as ForceBrands’ Co-Founder and Chief Progress Officer Sean Conner explains in this episode of Investing in the Future of Food, companies eager to remain competitive with their hiring strategies have options beyond just offering a high base salary.

“It is definitely a competitive market out there. Unemployment rates are close to 3.6%, so it is a candidate-driven market. There are a lot of available opportunities, and there are only so many candidates in the talent pool,”​ he told FoodNavigator-USA while attending BevNet Live in New York City last week.

As such, he added, “employers are looking at their benefits and compensation plans in order to attract and retain the best talent in the market.”

Offering a competitive salary obviously is one part, but as Conner notes, companies are looking beyond base pay to include bonuses and long-term incentives, such as equity or 401Ks.

According to ForceBrand’s survey, other benefits offered by small and large brands include tuition reimbursement, flex time, the ability to telework,  mentorship programs and lifestyle perks, such as free gym memberships. These options give startups that cannot compete on base salary flexibility to woo employees.

Building on this, Conner stressed the importance of cultivating talent from within given the labor market shows no sign of weakening any time soon.

“With earlier stage brands that are entering the market and earlier stage investments that are being allocated to brands, it is continuing to be a very tight market out there. … However, I think, the focus is on retaining the people that you have and growing talent internally,”​ which again goes back to mentorship programs and clear paths for personal and professional growth, he said.

Managing expectations

Despite companies’ best efforts, sometimes they will hire the wrong person, and when that happens leadership needs to act quickly to mitigate any negative impact on the team and business.

“The old motto is hire slow and fire quick,”​ Conner said. But there are steps in between to keep a relationship from going south, he added. He advised companies to set clear expectations from the first interview and keep in constant communication with employees after the start to ensure they are on track for success.

ForceBrands can offer a helping hand

All of this can be a lot to navigate – especially for entrepreneurs just starting out who already may be wearing multiple hats and may be stretched thin. In these cases, Conner says ForceBrands can help by offering recruitment services that are specialized for food, beverage, herb and beauty.

“ForceBrands has three services. We have an executive search division that helps with C-suite, VP, director level placement for sales, marketing and finance, operation and ecommerce opportunities,”​ Conner said.

ForceBrands also offers board of director and advisory placement services to connect with strategic advisors, as well as a job board for junior to mid-level positions.

Outside of that, though, Conner said ForceBrands tries to offer insights and advice with tools on its website, including fair market compensation data, job descriptions and more – all of which can help companies prepare for their businesses.

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