CHANNAHON, IL — Jeff Dearduff is a lifelong baking industry professional whose career has spanned from the plant floor to the c-suite, involving roles in engineering, equipment design, project management, plant operations and more.

Having seen decades of change and innovation within the industry, Dearduff is uniquely positioned to not only understand the challenges around labor shortages — a hot topic during the pandemic — but also to bring some solutions to the table.

Dearduff suggests “it might be time to radically change the way recruiting happens. Maybe it’s time to reach to the back of the racks for a blast from the past. Maybe it’s time to go OLD SCHOOL.” The following essay is an open letter Dearduff penned today, titled “An Open Letter to Hiring Leaders,” reposted with permission from LinkedIn.

As the fourth quarter of 2021 is now upon us, I fail to completely understand the continuing shortage of workers, which is leaving food companies scrambling and stretching to produce the foods that make their order volumes.

My direct interest, of course, is the baking industry. Even though I have been off the front lines for the last six months, I still follow the industry and the companies within, and continue to see that staffing issues are the number one plague in the space.

We have sat back for most of this time and blamed this condition on the state unemployment programs that provided extended benefits, on top of the stimulus funds issued to so many by the federal government and allowing the people in the pool of eligible food workers to relax at home.

As we sit here today, those unemployment programs are mostly over, and we haven’t heard about more stimulus in some time.

So what is the issue? Why are jobs not getting filled? Why are industrial bakeries still short staffed?


I see so many posts on LinkedIn and Facebook where bakeries are advertising for line workers, offering sign-on bonuses and talking about joining “the family.” How many people eligible for these jobs are scrolling social media looking for jobs? Not many. As a matter of fact, I believe you have to already follow the company to see their posts, so the audience is small at best. For management positions, that might be a different story, but that is not what we are struggling with the most.

When do we get back to talking about careers? People don’t necessarily want to join a “work family” as most already have a family. One with highs and lows, fun times and drama, love and hate. Why would they really be enticed to join another “family” adding generally more layers of all that, especially the drama?

These people need to hear about careers, development, opportunities and growth. They need to hear how jumping in benefits them short-term and long-term, not how “teamwork makes the dream work,” or other cute quips. One day they will all have to get a job to make ends meet. So why not one that shows how it can provide for a prosperous life outside of work, and one that could become a career in short order?

When people join for a career, when they are paid and treated fairly, and shown there are goals to reach, teamwork happens; it doesn’t need to be forced. Do the right things and let it happen.

Think outside the box, get out of the office, get into the community and get the word out. The old ways of working just might deliver a full roster in this new and challenging work of recruiting.


So back to the main point, how do we fill the rosters in this challenging period? I’m not an HR professional but I have managed people processes across my career. I get technology and I understand how workers were sought before 2020. I don’t have all the answers but maybe some suggestions. One thing I know: something has to change in order to be successful in this.

Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity, so said Einstein.

How about going back to old school?

How about using your technology to create some colorful and career-describing, old-fashioned paper flyers, then turn your technology off and hit the streets?


Get a local map, draw a 10- to 15-mile radius on the map, then discover all of the laundromats, check-cashing shops, hardware stores, auto parts stores, grocery stores, drug stores, churches, community colleges, tech schools and other places that might have a community information board that would allow you to post a flyer. This is where your workers of your future hang out, shop, pass by. This is where you will find them.

Think outside the box, get out of the office, get into the community and get the word out. The old ways of working just might deliver a full roster in this new and challenging work of recruiting.

Something old can be new again.