Ongoing personal and professional development is far more important to food manufacturing employees than benefits, bonuses and vacation time, according to a nationwide survey concerning employee retention strategies.
Here's a quick quiz. The best way to attract and retain food manufacturing employees is by providing:

A. Bonuses B. Benefits C. More time off

The answer is actually none of the above. A recent survey of some 198 food companies nationwide found that providing ongoing personal and professional development is by far

the most effective means of retaining employees. Additional time off and more money came in a distant second and third, according to the survey, which was conducted by TR Cutler Inc., a Ft. Lauderdale-based marketing firm.

Many respondents mentioned the concept of a "life coach" to help them balance professional and personal responsibilities. "Food manufacturing concerns are so focused on quality and safety issues that there is inherently more stress than in other types of industry," observed Susan Fiskin, an executive manufacturing coach.

Throwing money at the problem doesn't work. Ninety-two percent of respondents indicated that a $10,000 annual salary increase would not prompt them to change employers if they were receiving personal and professional development coaching. Respondents were quick to make the distinction between one-time spot training versus on-going coaching. "A one-time training session is like a pep rally," one respondent noted. "It wears off within a few days."