OPINIONFresh Food

Recognizing ‘Champions’ Puts Career Opportunities in the Spotlight

IDDBA president: Sharing experiences and enthusiasm for fresh teams is an ideal way to pay it forward
IDDBA
Photograph courtesy of IDDBA

As the leading association for the dairy, deli, bakery, cheese and foodservice sectors of the retail food industry, our team at the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA) is always vigilant in monitoring the trends and issues that impact—or have the potential to impact—the way our industry operates. From regulatory issues to changing shopping and eating patterns of consumers, the ability for our members to properly respond to the ever-evolving retail food landscape is paramount in ensuring that their fresh departments continue to grow.

Issues, trends and concerns are always changing, but one subject that I’ve seen remain consistent over the past few years is attracting and retaining top talent in the food industry. To put it bluntly, we haven’t done a good job of addressing this issue. It’s been a challenge for our industry to engage with potential associates and demonstrate to them the benefits and potential of pursuing a career in the retail food industry.

It’s not an easy task. Between a very competitive job market and an overall lack of awareness from many job seekers on career possibilities, the food industry, like other retail sectors, is experiencing the struggles of attracting and retaining talent.

So, as an industry, how do we develop the next generation of leaders? What can we do to tell the story of our fresh departments and businesses?

Perhaps one of the best ways to drive home the point that the food industry offers exciting career paths is to hear from the leaders of our industry themselves. They know firsthand the opportunities that exist, and the narrative of their journey brings a real-life component to our recruitment efforts. Perhaps it’s the story of the behind-the-counter associate, who’s now the deli supervisor overseeing several store departments. Or maybe it’s the summer worker at a manufacturing facility who returned to become the plant manager. Or a college graduate with a degree in accounting who jumped from the accounting office to an upper-level marketing position.

Telling the Story

People are what drive an industry, as well as an association. People is also one of IDDBA’s Six Influencers. And, the term “people” refers to both the job seekers of today and the leaders of tomorrow. To help foster this idea, IDDBA offers several programs that create opportunities for industry leaders to share their stories and inspire potential candidates.

As part of our Fresh Careers program, students enrolled in a food-focused program at participating colleges and universities have an opportunity to experience business-to-business networking at our annual show. In addition to learning about the myriad of products and the companies that produce them, they also interact with industry professionals and leaders. This includes a Career Ambassador assigned to each student, who share stories of his or her own career path. What better way to get energized about career possibilities then by walking through a sea of innovation, accompanied by an industry professional with a wealth of knowledge?

Another program that shines the spotlight on the successes of our industry—both of seasoned veterans and up-and-comers—is the Winsight Grocery Business and IDDBA Champions of Change awards program. Launched last year, its charter class was represented by 46 professionals, whose stories and career accomplishments were shared with readers of WGB and attendees at a special recognition ceremony at IDDBA’s annual show in Orlando. These are the leaders who have built—and continue to build—our industry. (Nominations are currently being accepted for consideration in this year’s Champions of Change program. To learn more and to nominate a ‘Champion’ of our industry, click here.)

We often cite the important role storytelling plays in engaging customers. The story behind the food resonates with shoppers. So, too, do the stories our industry leaders have to tell. Let’s share our experiences and enthusiasm for our fresh departments with the next generation of industry leaders.

Mike Eardley is president and CEO of the International Dairy Deli Bakery Association (IDDBA).

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