The Great Resignation: Attracting and Retaining Employees During Record Turnover

Across America, employees are quitting their jobs in record numbers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs in August 2021 alone, and those numbers are climbing. Maybe you’ve even noticed it at your own company.

Industries with the highest resignation rates

Industries that experienced the highest demand during the pandemic also experienced the highest turnover.

  • Hospitality & Leisure
  • Retail (apparel, food, and grocery)
  • Healthcare
  • Education & Childcare
  • Technology

In November 2021, quits increased in several industries, with the largest increases in food services, transportation and warehousing, and health care [U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics]. Blue-collar and white-collar sectors are being equally affected as well as hourly and salaried positions.

What’s driving “The Big Quit”?

It’s easy to blame the stress of COVID-19 for the obvious burnout many workers are feeling, but it’s not the whole story. Research done by Harvard Business Review and MIT Sloan Management Review points to a more insidious root cause that can be hard to identify and even harder to fix: workplace culture.

Specifically, toxic work culture.

Researchers found toxic work culture to be the biggest factor that led people to quit, and it was 10 times more important than pay in predicting turnover.

Identifying toxic work culture

Whether your company has worked on defining and cultivating a workplace culture or not, you have one. Unfortunately, companies that don’t proactively work on a positive culture often develop a negative one.

Many things can create toxic work environments, but here are some of the usual suspects:         

  • Trust and transparency

Companies that treat employees with distrust or discourage open and honest dialogue with leaders put undue stress on employees and lower morale.

  • Recognition and compensation

Heavy workloads and responsibility without proper compensation or opportunities for career growth can be the breaking point for many workers.

  • Leadership and management tactics

It should go without saying that abusive management techniques based on fear or intimidation will drive high performers elsewhere fast, but micromanagement is another big culprit.

  • Lack of concern for mental health and wellbeing

How companies handle workloads, flexibility, and of course, policies around things like return-to-office and vaccines show employees whether companies care about them as individuals or not.

These issues were amplified during the Coronavirus pandemic, leading to a boiling point for large numbers of workers. Many others reported that the pandemic gave them time to reevaluate their jobs, careers, and life goals.

This was especially true for women and older individuals, providing a blow to many companies’ diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) efforts.

Women and Baby Boomers are leaving the workforce

COVID burnout, stress, and job insecurity is leading many older workers in advanced career positions to choose an early retirement. Women are also stepping out of the workforce temporarily (and sometimes permanently) for a variety of reasons. Some of these include being stretched too thin due to remote learning, losing daycare options, choosing to home school in response to COVID concerns, and taking on additional caretaker roles for elderly family members.

What do employees want?

A healthy company culture is at the top of the list, but competitive compensation and benefits are still highly important. Lateral career opportunities and job enrichment such as training opportunities or tuition reimbursement were also highly rated. Lateral career opportunities are 12 times more predictive of employee retention than promotions [MIT Sloan Management Review].

Finally, flexibility for better work-life balance — which is closely tied to culture — was a top consideration.

Flexibility can be as simple as allowing employees to adjust their work hours to better fit their personal schedules (particularly for parents). Allowing employees to work from home a certain number of days each week is another example. In fact, candidates are 2.5 times as likely to apply to jobs that are partially or fully remote.

Leveraging the Great Resignation

Now’s the time to implement a targeted strategy to attract and retain employees, and partnering with a full-service executive recruitment agency can be a crucial component.

Even if you’re not seeing turnover issues internally, this is an opportunity to hire top talent leaving (or considering leaving) other companies.

At Curtis Food Recruiters, our industry insights, research, and access to a network of diverse executive talent gives you a market advantage. As a woman-owned company, we’re also committed to DE&I, and it shows — over 50% of our placements are women or racially diverse individuals. Our goal and guarantee is to find you the right candidate for your job. Reach out to us, and let’s start a conversation about building your best team.

Retail Grocery and Food Manufacturing in 2022: Executive Benefits & Compensation

The retail grocery and food and beverage manufacturing industry is rapidly approaching 2022. We want to provide some important things to consider as you are crafting your executive compensation plans to attract the industry’s most sought-after leadership talent.

Here are some of the current trends that indicate what the future may bring, even with so many unknowns still up in the air. We hope you find this helpful and informative when searching for your next executives.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Various Compensation Plans

What does your executive compensation plan look like?

Ideally, the most attractive plan will balance the support of your company’s goals and align with your corporate strategy. But a great benefit and compensation plan will also discourage self-serving tendencies and instead incentivize your executives to contribute to the long-term growth and profitability of the business.

The variety of packages you may offer could differ dramatically depending on your business, your desired outcome, and the executives you seek.

Compensation Plans For More Immediate Results

Some compensation plans are geared to produce immediate results but are not sustainable for a longstanding growth strategy. Some brief examples are bonuses tied to production and cost-reduction benchmarks, and overall effectiveness

Many executives prefer these benefits because they have a more noticeable impact on the executive’s paycheck and are easier to quantify according to performance and growth metrics.

While these compensation plans can be useful in motivating productivity year over year, they are less effective in increasing overall value and sustainable growth.

Additionally, there is a conflict of interest that should be considered: many executives have oversight to the metrics to which their compensation is measured, and ultimately, tied. Therefore, safeguards should be taken to eliminate the inherent temptation to manipulate the results in order to receive a higher bonus.

Win/Win Compensation Plans

The most effective compensation plans are based on a win/win model: their ultimate purpose is to incentivize the executive to act on behalf of your business and work to increase value and drive the long-term growth and profitability of the company.

Examples of these could include incentives such as deferred compensation and profit-sharing plans or compensation that is ultimately higher but matures over a longer period, such as phantom or restricted stock options with appreciation rights and profit interests.

These incentives may not be the shot-in-the-arm that your immediate packages could offer. But ultimately, they are far more effective in getting the executive’s buy-in to act on behalf of the company as more of a contributor with a long-term strategy, rather than according to their self-interest with more short-sighted goals.

You could choose to offer a variety of incentives. You could even diversify to include some more immediate results that could motivate an executive today, mixed with other compensation that will incentivize higher performance and retention over the long term. Ultimately, it’s important to keep in mind how the success of these plans pivots on two important details:

  1. How strategically aligned their mechanics are tailored to your overall business goals.
  2. Highlight and clearly present how your plan translates to the executive’s own personal wealth.

Increased Benefits and Perks

The wave of employer confidence in hiring is fueling competition for top employees. This, in turn, is fueling a need for increased benefits to attract the top talent.

In 2021, 48% of employers took a strong stance on attracting the industry’s top executives by offering a signing bonus. But it doesn’t stop there. Today’s executives are savvier than ever. We can presume employers who don’t offer a signing bonus will either be asked for benefits of equal value, whether that’s more flexibility or other financial perks.

These days, we’re hearing from executives in the retail grocery and food/beverage manufacturing industries that attractive benefits packages and perks can be just as important, if not more important than their base salary when considering a new position.

In 2022, businesses can expect some of the top benefits executives will be looking for are an increase in health and dental insurance, paid time off, retirement savings plans, as well as robust signing bonuses and relocation allowances. While we may see an increased demand for better benefits, we feel 2022 will be known as the year when perks became a priority for all the industry’s top talent.

Of the perks today’s executives are looking for, the foremost is flexibility like remote work options or flexible schedules. Indeed, flexibility and the ability to have more of a work/life balance was one of the main reasons our CEO founded Curtis Food Recruiters in the first place.

Today’s executives know they can run a household and raise a family, all while contributing to a thriving career as long as their employer recognizes the importance of a work/life balance and makes proactive steps to support their employees in that regard.

Other perks we can expect will be front and center include:

  • Child Care assistance
  • Employee discounts
  • Wellness programs
  • Paid parental leave
  • Stipends for home office equipment
  • Mental health resources

Holistic Wellness Benefits

It is probably not a surprise that during a time when so many people faced an abundance of difficulties and so much uncertainty, executives would want better wellness benefits. Wellness benefits are becoming so popular, we predict that in 2022 wellness, specifically holistic wellness programs, will be at the forefront of an employer’s hiring strategy.

These benefits would include perks such as:

  • Gym memberships and other physical wellness programs
  • Retirement planning for financial wellness
  • Stress reduction programs and other mental wellness programs 
  • Work/life balance initiatives like a compressed workweek or permanent, part-time arrangements

For employers whose hiring strategy focuses on long-term retention and growth, wellness benefits are especially important. They contribute to the long-term care and health of your executives, who, in turn, will be more capable and motivated to care for and grow your company for the long term as well. 

Main Takeaway

Employers, if we could impress one thing you should take away from this, it would be the following statistic: starting salaries for executives across all industries are expected to increase by 3% in 2022.

Executive candidates are willing to look at the total package where salary is only part. It’s important to offer a robust compensation plan, as base compensation, bonus, relocation, LTIP, flexibility, overall benefits, as well as company culture are collectively important in attracting top executives.

If you need a retained partner who has up-to-date, first-hand knowledge of recruiting executives in the food manufacturing and retail grocery industries, contact us. Curtis Food Recruiters can be your advocate in searching for and recruiting the top executive talent you need. Make the most of 2022. Contact us today!

Recognizing National Women’s Small Business Month: How Relationships Have Created 15 years of Success

October is National Women’s Small Business Month. This month has me reflecting on when Curtis Food Recruiters got its start 15 years ago at the intersection between the great need for a new kind of executive recruiting model, and for the flexibility that owning and operating my own agency could provide.

Being a woman-owned business allows us to create relationships like nobody else, because we know there is no way to rush into them. Relationships are earned, and that is especially true in executive recruiting, an industry that is built on and operates with no small amount of highly sensitive, confidential information.

We are also more in-tune with the nuances of confidentiality and are more aware of how essential trust – from years of delivering results – is key to building the relationships on which our entire business model pivots. 

Women Recruiters Are Effective Advocates For Change

As an executive search firm we are constantly asking people to change. Whether that’s changing careers, changing location, or changing a perception of their fit for a role and getting out of their comfort zone and pursuing a great opportunity.

Sometimes it takes a little nudge to get people to consider change, especially when it involves seeing in themselves the talent and capabilities that we see. That’s where we see an opportunity for a better kind of salesmanship because building relationships is crucial. Developing meaningful relationships with prospective candidates, and our clients is what drives and energizes our entire team. We feel fortunate that people put their trust and confidence in us each and every day.

As women recruiters, we focus on an “honest, but positive” perspective. That means sometimes having difficult and candid conversations that focus on sharing positive aspects and the truth that lies in each role and company. There are good aspects as well as challenges to every job. We aim to be honest about those details and represent our clients in the best light.

Our Women-Owned Recruiting Model Focuses on Results

As we continue to celebrate 15 years as a woman-owned small business in the food manufacturing and grocery retail industries, we are so grateful for the opportunities we’ve had to build relationships. It has been an honor to help recruit and place amazing people, create meaningful solutions for our clients and provide mentoring opportunities for those who are at the forefront of their careers. 

But our work is far from done. Even in 2021, we don’t see anyone else serving the food and grocery industry like we do. Our clients depend on our ability to place diverse talent in VP, SVP, and C-Level roles. With the current demand for talent being higher than it’s ever been, we see the need for more women that are qualified and open for executive-level roles in the food industry. That’s what makes our work as a woman-owned and operated executive recruiting firm even more significant in today’s executive search landscape. 

As we celebrate National Women’s Small Business Month, please think about the courage and confidence it took for these women to start and succeed. Support them when you can and think about the generation behind us that needs a mentor along the way.

Julie Curtis
President / Executive Recruiter

 Recently Curtis Food Recruiters earned their WBENC certification. To learn more about working with the leading executive recruiter for the food manufacturing and grocery retail industries, and a woman-owned business that can deliver results, contact Curtis Food Recruiters today. 

 

When Businesses Give Back: Curtis Food Recruiters Partners With CROSS Services

Last winter, we wrote about how hunger is especially painful during the holidays and how glad we were to have found a valuable community partner in CROSS Services. Unfortunately, need reaches beyond just the holidays, however, and this year continues to be exceptionally challenging. With more people in need than ever, we are grateful to see so many organizations like CROSS Services help to fight hunger and provide needed services in their communities. 

The mission of CROSS Services is to address food insecurity and children’s needs, provide financial assistance and affordable clothing, and act as family advocates for our local communities. We love CROSS Services because they are doing amazing work assisting local families and individuals in need. As local K-12 students are getting ready to head back to school this fall, one of the main initiatives of CROSS is providing them with backpacks, complete with school supplies. This year’s goal is to distribute 1,000 backpacks to students in need. 

For the past 7 years, we have proudly supported CROSS in these efforts. While we were in line to purchase this year’s school supply donations, we were heartened by a woman who was curious about the large volume of supplies in our cart. We explained our efforts in supporting the CROSS backpack program and she handed us a donation on the spot! It’s gestures like these that inspire us to spread awareness, and to keep up the work that our community volunteers and non-profit organizations so desperately need!

We are hoping you might take a moment to consider giving back as well. Whether that’s through CROSS Services or a community non-profit of your choosing. If you would like to support our partners at CROSS, contact them today for more information on how you can help out. Thank you for taking a moment to consider joining us in giving back!

Rise Of Plant-Based Foods Creates Industry-Wide Growth In R&D

Right now is a particularly exciting time to be recruiting in the food manufacturing and grocery retail industry. The groundbreaking innovations we’re seeing in our sector portend this could be a most consequential time not just for our industry, but for the planet and our future.

It may have all begun in the research and development of plant based foods.

The Rise Of Plant Based Foods Sparks Innovation

There has always been a viable market for plant based foods. But a variety of recent changes and product developments has caused a boom in demand. One of the main factors causing this demand is a spike in innovations and developments such as:

This is a notable evolution in an industry where R&D has historically been a tough sell. In part because of the uncertain ROI and potentially costly and time-consuming nature of R&D.

But now, food manufacturers are investing heavily in research and development in this sector to stay ahead of the curve for innovations in:

This trend is made possible as big companies are getting on board with the profitability and viability of R&D for the plant based industry.

To put this into perspective, it is not uncommon that leading investors would lend hundreds of millions of dollars to help promising manufacturers expand production capacity, add more innovative products to their portfolio, and lay the foundation for global expansion. It’s a bet that, given the momentum of the industry, is likely to pay off handsome dividends.

Growth & Innovation influences All Sectors of Food & Beverage Manufacturing

The statistics alone indicate the effect R&D is making on growth in the plant based industry: 

But the benefits of R&D from top plant-based food manufacturers is not contained to just the plant based industry. Both 2019 and 2020 were banner years for innovations in the food manufacturing industry as a whole. 

The livestock, dairy and meat industry are experiencing a need/push to evolve and diversify toward increased efficiencies and sustainability. As the saying goes, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” And seldom has this been more true in the growth and innovation of the food and beverage industry.

Thanks to the demand for plant based foods, we’re seeing a spike in demand across all sectors – all part of a growing movement dedicated to finding new ways to make our food supply more plentiful, fresh, and sustainable.

Why is R&D So Important For All Food Manufacturers?

Supply chains continue to be tested. The appetites of consumers are changing frequently. Environmental factors are shifting unexpectedly.

When we juxtapose the uncertainties of the food and beverage industry to historical demands, it is no surprise the suppliers of all foods are in a rush to find new, creative ways to produce foods that are:

  • Healthier
  • More profitable
  • Drought resistant
  • More pest resilient
  • Able to travel better
  • Grown closer to market

The government agrees. These are all reasons why companies who invest heavily in R&D could benefit from a variety of tax credits. But more importantly, the decision makers and people driving change towards increased R&D could save countless generations from poverty and famine.

Research & Development For All Food & Beverage Companies

At Curtis Food Recruiters, we are finding R&D is playing a bigger role in our retained client’s needs. They’re counting on us to source and recruit the best top C-Suite Executives and Senior Level talent who can lead the R&D revolution and meet the demands of the market and its suppliers.

We are always looking for ways we can help. The fact that our talent may be a part of such a historic moment makes recruiting for the food & beverage industry our passion.

If you need the top C-Suite Executives and Senior Level talent who can contribute to your R&D goals, and nurture an environment of innovation within your organization contact Curtis Food Recruiters today.

Why Choosing a Retained Recruiter Gives You the Advantage

When you need top executive talent, you want them to be the very best. You want your new hire to be able to hit the ground running and begin guiding your company like a seasoned professional. And you want them to stick around for the long-term!

That can be a tall order for anyone in the food manufacturing and grocery retail industry. If you’ve made the first step towards working with a recruiter, you might be wondering what kind of a recruiter you should work with. Retained or contingent?

We wanted to share some of the differences between these unique relationships and demonstrate how retaining Curtis Food Recruiters can not only give you and your company the market advantage but can provide peace of mind you can’t get anywhere else!

Retained Recruiting Vs. Contingent Recruiting

To understand what is best for you and your company, it is best to juxtapose the main identifying factors between the contingent and retained recruiting models.

Characteristics of Contingent Recruiting:

  • No up-front fees.
  • The placement fee is often lower than a retained search fee.
  • You only pay a recruiter if they successfully place a candidate in your business.
  • Contingent firms will often expedite the hiring process – working to fill the position as the highest priority.
  • Contingent search firms have access to a large quantity of candidates actively seeking new employment.

Characteristics of Retained Recruiting:

  • Retained recruiters work with their clients from the very beginning of the candidate search. As partners, the client and recruiter develop a recruiting strategy, and process to follow throughout every step of the recruiting project.
  • The client benefits from their recruiter’s long-term advocacy within the talent community.
  • Often, retained recruiters will work exclusively with their client, offering an unmatched level of service and detail.
  • Retained recruiters can afford to have a highly specialized niche industry to which they recruit, such as the food manufacturing and grocery retail industries. They understand the pain points and nuances of their clients better than anybody else.
  • Retained recruiters can expedite the hiring process by thoroughly vetting their candidates, saving time by offering quality over quantity.
  • Because the client and their recruiter are considered partners, many recruiters will often share their recruiting technology, subscriptions, and sourcing tools with their clients.

Why Only the Best Executive Talent Works With Retained Recruiters

Many candidates who work with contingency firms are often overwhelmed with phone calls from multiple recruiters. Additionally, it is unlikely the candidate will get to meet their recruiter’s client right away. Because of this, answering a call from a contingent recruiter can present the unsavory prospect of more time spent following unpromising leads

The best candidates, on the other hand, are extremely discerning when it comes to handing out their resumes. Since confidentiality is key to a higher level of executive recruiting, they won’t want their resume’s distributed without permission. This is why contingency firms simply aren’t in the same orbit as these high-quality candidates.

As your retained recruiter, you’ll have access to a better pool of talent: our trusted network of proven executives with the perfect mission-driven experience, skills, leadership style, and cultural competencies to match your company.

In the same way, retaining Curtis Food makes us your dedicated recruiter, our talent only works with us for a higher, more intimate level of service and professionalism.

When Diversity is a Priority: Choose Retained Recruiting

In order to understand how retained recruiters are able to offer more diverse options, one must understand how executive outreach into underrepresented communities is made.

Diverse executives have heard it all before. They’ve heard about how employers are eager to work with more diverse talent. Employers are after diverse candidates’ ability to provide a different perspective, add more innovative ideas, and round out the talents of their peers, creating a more unified, resilient, and creative leadership team. 

But putting all that into practice is another story altogether. Hiring diverse candidates is one thing. But creating a business culture that nurtures diversity and fosters equity is something entirely different. The problem is, from the outside looking in, it’s almost impossible to tell the difference between the two. 

Because we are retained recruiters, the diverse executives we work with count on us to know our clients through and through. Moreover, they depend on us to be truthful about your organization and their real potential to truly make an impact and succeed.

The very best diverse executives work with retained recruiters for two important reasons:

  1. They can expect more candid, inside information from a retained recruiter because of our deeper, closer relationship with clients.
  2. Retained recruiters can provide a more thorough and transparent track record of lifting up diverse and underrepresented talent.

When we begin working together on a project, our candidates have access to the fine details of your organization. And with our historical record of success in representing diverse talent, we can truly demonstrate how your opportunity is right for them.

Retained Recruiters Take the Pressure Out of “No Win, No Fee” Recruiting

One thing everyone can agree on – when you need to make a decision about anything, it’s best to have clarity and space to make the right decision. That becomes even more true when you ratchet the stakes higher. And for any company, there may not be any stakes higher than who they hire for executive leadership. 

You may have a fabulous relationship with a contingent recruiter. But there is just no getting around the “no win, no fee” element of contingent recruiting. Simply, if your recruiter doesn’t get their candidate hired, they don’t get paid. 

Retained recruiting eliminates all that in one fell swoop. No pressure. No competition. No confusion or worry that your recruiter is sending you the actual best candidates. And, most importantly, there’s no rush to make an incredibly important decision that requires ultimate clarity and confidence.

Your retained recruiter’s shortlist of candidates comes garnished with all of those luxuries and more: the guarantee that in the highly unlikely case that something should go awry, your partner will be right there for you in a snap. 

The Unique Guarantee of a Retained Recruiter 

What is a guarantee, really?

If you buy a new tv, and the tv doesn’t work, your purchase guarantee means you get a new tv. That is nice and all, but you still have to box up the tv, take it back to the store, and exchange it for another tv (presuming they have your model in stock). In the end, you get the tv you paid for, but not after an unnecessary headache and hassle. 

That is not the case for retained recruiters!

Think of the guarantee of a retained recruiter as the anti-hassle. The key is in two very important components to the relationship you strike in a retained agreement:

1) Accountability is key

Contingent recruiters are simply not held to the same degree of accountability as a retained recruiter. That is because the relationship between a contingent recruiter and their talent is often transactional and informal. There just isn’t the same level of intimacy and trust as the relationship between retained recruiters and their talent.

We are able to proudly call ourselves retained recruiters because when it comes to our talent, the buck stops with us. It’s our reputation and trusting relationship that’s on the line. 

2) Insurance you can count on

The strength and depth of any relationship is rarely put to a full test when everyone’s happy and things are going well. It’s when the unlikely and unexpected occurs you’ll be glad you had the security and resolve of a retained recruiter in your corner. That is why working with a retained recruiter is like buying an insurance policy for your hiring strategy, but better. Your retained recruiter can act with speed and accuracy to provide a seamless solution that is just as good, if not better than your first choice.

That is insurance you can count on to support your hiring strategy.

Why Choose A Retained Recruiter

Working with a recruiter can be a very personal experience. So ultimately, the decision should come down to what’s right for you.

Many employers prefer contingent recruiting because they aren’t looking for a deep, long-lasting relationship with their recruiter. They may prefer a more transactional model in which the recruiter is motivated to work very quickly to complete a project with a short time-to-fill. 

But we’ve found our partners in the food manufacturing and grocery retail industries are looking for the very best management and executive-level professionals. They depend on Curtis Food to provide a different model: that of a high-touch partner who’ll work closely with them every step of the way through the recruitment process. They’re looking for a trusted, long-term recruiter who can ensure the success of their executive hire.

Our retained relationships have meant the world to our clients and have given them the market advantage in sourcing and hiring the very top talent for their company.

We’re excited to talk with you about how we can provide this unique service for your company and how, as your retained recruiters, we can provide a market advantage like nobody else. 

Contact our team at Curtis Food today. We can’t wait to hear from you!

Gardening in Small Spaces

As we finally seem to be rounding the corner on spring, looking back, I can truly say that it was a long winter! I know this for sure because on one of our first Minnesota spring mornings, I was awoken to the sound of birds and I literally couldn’t recognize what the sound was! That got me thinking about my vegetable garden. 

At Curtis Food Recruiters, we are all about the food!  On this note, one of my passions over the last few years has been planning and growing my own vegetable garden. Even though I don’t have a lot of space for vegetable gardening, I really do enjoy it. Backyard gardening is a food trend that has been growing in popularity across the nation, especially since COVID-19.

Many of us do not have expansive fields in which to plant and grow our own food, however, we do have the means to create some very productive crops using the space that we do have. Whatever you choose to call it: urban gardening, square foot gardening, container gardening, backyard gardening, the concept is all the same; we are trying to do the most with the space that we have.

The following are some of my favorite small space gardening tips:

Use square foot gardening. The concept of square foot gardening was created in the 1970s by a retired engineer named Mel Bartholomew. He noticed that instead of the traditional way of planting with rows, small gardens would be more efficient if planted in squares. This was because the rows were intended to make space for the equipment in the fields, but were not as efficient as a densely planted garden. Square foot gardening involves laying down 1foot square guides and then planting the various crops within each 1-foot section. This can be done using wood strips or even string or in my case “eye-balling” it. With rows eliminated, this type of dense planting also helps reduce weeds, another bonus for the home gardener.  Raised gardens also work well.  In two 4 x 8 gardens, you could have as many as 64 different types of vegetables.

Think about recycling your crops throughout the summer. Some plants grow quickly from seed and can be replanted throughout the summer. This is one form of succession planting. Vegetables like lettuce, radishes, and green beans work well for this. You can replant these crops about every 2-3 weeks, as the plants stop producing.  Another great way to re-use garden space is to cut plants like Swiss chard and lettuce about an inch above the ground when harvesting them. This will allow them to re-grow at least one or two more times. By following these tips, you can recycle your garden space all summer long.

Consider dwarf or miniature varieties of plants. These plants can produce as much as the traditional larger-sized varieties but in a much more compact area. More and more types of these plants are being introduced as backyard gardening is becoming more popular. They will often be labeled with words like dwarf, miniature, or compact. Also, be sure to look for varieties that indicate that they are highly productive.

Consider growing herbs and vegetables among the other plants in your landscape. Herbs and vegetables don’t always need their own private garden space; they can be simply incorporated into your landscape. This also means that the space in your front yard can be just as easily used as the space in your backyard; making more room for planting vegetables and herbs.

Plant what you enjoy.  Herbs are very distinct in flavor and smell and can trigger a range of feelings, emotions, and memories. Lavender is a great example of this.  One of my favorite things to plant among my perennials is Pineapple Sage. Even though I never choose to cook with it, Pineapple Sage is one of my favorite herbs.  Full-grown at about 2 feet, it is a beautiful lime green plant that smells absolutely wonderful! Every time I walk by it, I grab a small handful of leaves and am immediately taken to the tropics!

Create miniature gardens in your containers. Even planters on a patio or deck can be great containers for a small garden. You can create small themed gardens within the containers. For a spaghetti garden, all you need is a tomato plant, like San Marzano or Roma, and some herbs like oregano and basil. Be sure that the space does get at least 6 hours of sun for the best results. Consider other types of miniature gardens as well, such as a salad garden with various types and colors of lettuce, grape tomatoes, chives, and radishes. Be creative!

Use all of your space wisely, including vertical space. Planting vining vegetables on a trellis or pole is a great way to get several more feet of vertical space from your garden without using a large footprint. A simple thing I like to do is put 4 or 5 bamboo stakes in the center of my raised garden in a small circle or square and then tie them together at the top with twine. Last summer, I planted pole beans around the stakes. At the height of summer, they were not only a beautiful focal point in my garden but also produced an abundance of great-tasting beans through the later part of the summer. In the landscape, a rung ladder propped next to the sunny side of the house would make a great support for peas or miniature pumpkins; or a trellis would work equally well.

Have fun and be creative with the different types of containers you can use in your space. I have seen some pretty creative uses of containers around the web these days. This includes multi-level containers on the deck, as well as pallets being propped up vertically with plants in pots tacked to the sides. One of my favorites is the re-purposing of an over the door shoe bag. It was made out of a really pretty burlap-type fabric and had herbs tucked in the places where the shoes are supposed to go. Adorable! I have also seen multiple layers of gutters hung together with twine and used for planting. I currently have a window box that I am not using for flowers this year but filled with herbs, it may be a great centerpiece for my outdoor dining table.

For additional information on the topic, one website that offers some great suggestions and how-to’s, including tutorials, on creating small space edible gardens is Sunset at http://www.sunset.com/garden/fruits-veggies/small-space-vegetable-gardens-00400000044403/. Mel Bartholomew also offers some great tips to getting starting with the Square Foot Gardening method on his blog at http://www.melbartholomew.com/

Now get planting! I would love to hear about your results!

Marianne Lenz

Curtis Food Recruiters 15th Anniversary

Just last month, Curtis Food Recruiters celebrated our 15th anniversary. It’s been an incredible journey only made possible by the invaluable people who have been a part of our team and the wonderful clients and candidates we’ve met along the way. 

To commemorate this special occasion, we sat down with our founder, Julie Curtis, to talk about what the past decade and a half has been like for both CFR and the food industry.

Why start Curtis Food Recruiters?

I had a leadership role with a Fortune 500 company, which came with a tremendous amount of visibility and responsibility. While I loved that job, it was hard to balance that with a young family. Starting my own business was a way to create my own work-life balance. 

While I admit I still struggle with achieving a true work-life balance, I love what I do, I truly do. This encompasses all of what we do here, our team, our clients, and our candidates. A lot of work goes into owning your own firm, but to me, I think it’s more than worth it! 

What thoughts & emotions come to mind when you think about the 15th anniversary of CFR?

It should feel like a huge accomplishment, however, with the ups and downs of the pandemic, it doesn’t quite hold the same weight. Our 10th anniversary felt like “we did it!” Our 15th feels hard-fought, like running a race. The past 13 months have made searches more difficult and complex. 

When business is good, you work hard to make sure it stays good, and when business is slow, you work even harder; embracing those challenges is the only way to make it through. Reflecting on this particular anniversary, our whole team continues to work hard for each other, for our clients and for our families. Without this particular team and group of women, I couldn’t have made it to 15 years!

What was some crucial advice you received that has helped you make it to your 15th anniversary?

I received an incredibly impactful piece of advice as I was starting out with CFR: don’t put all your eggs in one basket. As simple as that may seem, it had incredible meaning for our business. It means for executive search, don’t spend 75% of your time working with one client because so much can change — organizational and leadership changes, mergers and acquisitions, and that can lead to completely redeveloping your customer base. Rather than rely so much on just a few relationships, diversify your client base. We have been able to successfully diversify our portfolio with branded food manufacturers, private label, large and small grocery retailers and wholesalers, and foodservice customers across the country.  

Another piece of advice I received that has stuck with me all these years is, when you are hiring people for your own team, focus on their customer service skills. Hire someone with great client relations skills; someone who understands how to communicate, gather information, pay attention to the details and problem solve for the customer. Rather than focusing on hyper-specific skills, hire a stellar communicator, someone that is innovative, and has experience overcoming challenges. Your clients will be happy and come back time and time again.

How has the food industry changed in the last 15 years?

I think there are components of the food industry that have changed drastically; quality assurance, quality control, point of origin, blockchain technology — being able to know exactly where that bushel of product originated. The ability to find out on a granular level how to improve our food supply has greatly improved.   

Another element that is fun to reflect on from the past 15 years is how the organic, natural products and grocery chains have grown. All of these tiny little organic and natural food companies were just sprouting up and finding their place back then. 

We’ve also seen an incredible amount of innovation in food products, flavors and ingredients. There has been such a dramatic change in the way we eat, what we eat, and how we as consumers make more educated decisions on what we are putting into our bodies. We have seen some amazing transformations within food companies and it will be fascinating to see how that continues to evolve. 

Who is your business role model? Who has inspired you?

One person that stands out in my mind is Sheryl Sandberg — both her books “Lean In” and “Plan B” mean a lot to me. I relate to her values, her thought process and problem-solving. Helping other women inspires me as well. I recently participated in a mentoring experience with the Network of Executive Women (NEW), and I loved that! I’ve also learned a lot from some of the clients we’ve worked with over the years, such as Kathy Hayden, VP of Sales during her time at WhiteWave and beyond, Rhonda Harman, VP of HR at Michael Foods, as well as so many other great business leaders. 

I have also grown a lot as a business leader through working with Executive Coach, Sarah Bridges — she has inspired me and knows how to ask just the right question to help you problem-solve on your own. As a leader, this is the area that I have grown in the most over the last five years and continue to work on. My tendency was to jump in and fix the problems, but instead, I have learned to ask more questions and redirect people to solve the problems on their own. 

What is your favorite part about your job? 

For me, the motivation always comes down to my client and candidate relationships. A client once commented, “You come to every single conversation with such energy, how do you do that?” I might not always have that same energy while working at my desk, but I definitely do when I am working with my clients — it’s my favorite part of the job! When clients are innovative, thoughtful, authentic and share who they really are, I’m able to help them define what they truly need, and in turn, find the right person for the role.

What do you foresee in the next 15 years for CFR? What are your goals?

Applying the insight I have gained this year from working with an executive coach, my focus will be on trying to let go a bit more, trust more in others and continue to let my team shine. I am naturally a take charge person and I am learning to sit back and let others take the lead (sometimes) — I’m a work in progress! 

From a company standpoint, I want to continue strengthening our existing relationships, grow our customer base and focus on higher-level roles that are appropriate for executive search. Also concentrate on being more efficient with the time we have and improve our processes with new technology. It’s important in our industry to always challenge our mindset and continue to try new things.   

Curtis Food Recruiters 

As a full-service executive search firm, Curtis Food Recruiters has successfully matched skilled job seekers with prominent businesses throughout the food manufacturing and grocery retail industry for over a decade. If you’re searching for your next top performer or need help advancing your career, contact us today and we’ll leverage our vast industry experience to move your hiring needs forward. 

5 Ways to Promote Wellness in the Workplace

Wellness in the workplace isn’t a new concept—far from it. But the events of 2020 have brought employee wellbeing into sharper focus than ever before. In 2021, organizations that recognize this and commit themselves to support their employees have been able to differentiate themselves from other employers by showing they truly value the whole employee, not just what skill sets they bring to the organization.

Our team at Curtis Food Recruiters collected our thoughts on a few of the most effective ways leaders can keep their teams supported, connected, and well throughout 2021. 

Get Everyone on Board

Before you start to build out or enhance your employee wellness initiatives, it’s important to make sure your teams are on board and motivated to participate. Surprisingly, studies show that 80% of employees do not have the inner drive to follow their organization’s wellness programs. Leveraging coaching and educating employees on the benefits of wellness programs can help boost participation and follow through on whichever initiatives you choose to implement. Bringing fresh, engaging and exciting ideas to your wellness program will certainly garner more interest than the outdated models some companies are still using. 

Here are a few tips from SHRM on how to establish and design a wellness program that works from the start!

Get Your People Moving

Exercising is an undeniable antidote for a variety of negative conditions, physical and mental alike. Commit your organization to step up its fitness goals in 2021. You can promote friendly competition and accountability for a variety of physical activities like jogging, biking (if you’re in Minnesota like us, maybe put this one on hold until Spring!), steps challenges, yoga and more. Decide what’s best for your unique company makeup and get your people moving in 2021.

Ongoing Virtual Employee Wellbeing Sessions

Based on what is feasible for your organization, providing an opportunity for your team members to seek out a wellbeing session is one of the most effective and helpful ways to respond to challenging times. Whether it’s guided meditation, yoga, or simply someone to talk to, it’s important to make it clear to employees that it’s okay if people are struggling and that you’re here to help them through it. 

Unplug and Recharge

In addition to the structured wellness programs you incorporate, don’t be afraid to get a little creative and personal as well. “Unplug and Recharge” is an idea that supports employees on an individual basis by championing the wellness practices they want to explore. Whether it’s a two-hour window every Thursday where someone can go for a walk, take a long lunch, read, run errands, or simply unplug, dedicating a period during the week where your teams have the liberty to choose what’s best for them can speak volumes about your commitment to wellbeing and encourage participation in whatever other initiatives you put forward.

Celebrate Employee Achievements

We know you probably already recognized employees of the month before the pandemic—but in 2021, it’s best to take that a couple of steps further. Create a genuine culture of celebrating one another. Encourage people to shout out fellow team members for how they are valuable. Whether it’s in weekly company-wide meetings or smaller daily encounters, carve out time for your people to appreciate one another this year. It matters!

Make Your Office Greener

This may seem a little outside-of-the-box, but the amount of data supporting the benefits of interacting with nature, can’t be ignored. To combat a year dominated by being sequestered indoors, help your employees reconnect by injecting your office space with a little more green. Bringing nature inside office walls with indoor plants (succulents are great options), moss walls, water features, and open windows where feasible, can work wonders and help employees fight back against a year of disconnectedness and separation. 

Wellness ideas like the ones listed above serve as a great launchpad for doing whatever part you can in supporting your team members through difficult times. Beyond just intrinsically being the appropriate response, as the pandemic shifts the dynamic between employers and employees, having a comprehensive employee wellness plan (and having people know you have it) is becoming a competitive necessity. 

Curtis Food Recruiters 

As a full-service executive search firm, Curtis Food Recruiters has successfully matched skilled job seekers with prominent businesses throughout the food manufacturing and grocery retail industry for over a decade. If you’re searching for your next top performer or need help advancing your career, contact us today and we’ll leverage our vast industry experience to move your hiring needs forward.