How a Global Manufacturer is Filling the Talent Gap through Mass Relocation

Peer Practices
Written by Anthony Congi

Adam Robitaille

Head of Market HR North America

MilliporeSigma - subsidiary of Merck

With talent shortages affecting nearly every industry, Chief Human Resources Officers are getting creative to source, attract and retain the right talent to grow with their businesses. Many organizations are offering flexibility to appeal to applicants, but what can HR leaders do if this is not an option or there simply is not enough available talent in their market?

Adam Robitaille is the Head of Market HR, North America at MilliporeSigma, the U.S. and Canada life science business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, and he and his team developed a relocation program called “Move with MilliporeSigma” to grow the workforce at their manufacturing sites. Robitaille shared this story at Evanta’s Boston Executive Summit in a session entitled “Upstarting through Uprooting,” and here, he is sharing the key aspects of the initiative that led to its success. 

A Supply Chain Thwarted by the Talent Shortage

MilliporeSigma manufactures approximately 300,000 products, with 25 locations in the United States. When the pandemic hit, they saw a surge in demand for critical Covid-19 related products, but like many companies, it was difficult to hire enough workers to meet their supply chain needs. MilliporeSigma’s largest manufacturing sites are in locations with small populations and far from major cities, such as Jaffrey, New Hampshire; Sheboygan, Wisconsin; and Danvers. Massachusetts, and local talent pools were tapped.

If we keep fishing in the same pool, we're not going to increase our talent pool. You have to be creative.”

It became clear that a formidable relocation campaign would be essential to their success. Robitaille stated, “We found that throughout the pandemic and through searches and hiring campaigns that we needed to find a different solution, we needed to search outside of our typical pool of applicants and candidates.” 

This undertaking, however, brings its own set of challenges. Employee acquisition would be reliant on comprehensive packages that meet both personal and professional needs - to entice them to relocate to remote cities. Moreover, from a corporate perspective, this is a huge undertaking, and executive buy-in would be a battle due to logistics and cost requirements. Robitaille’s team developed the “Move with MilliporeSigma” program to clearly define objectives for both internal and external stakeholders and to create a storyline to sell across the organization.

Utilizing Mass Relocation to Fill the Talent Gap

“Move with MilliporeSigma'' is a program that hosts sophisticated hiring events where qualified candidates are given job offers on the spot with substantial relocation packages - including temporary housing to afford new employees the ability to move and give them ample time to find permanent living situations. These job fairs are hosted in cities that have high unemployment rates and with demographics that fit their open positions, such as Philadelphia, Chicago and St. Louis. 

To grow MilliporeSigma’s overall productivity, retention strategies have been integral to this program. The events highlight growth and development, as many new employees are ready for promotions within six to twelve months. Additionally, each event, as Robitaille puts it, “sells the honest truth” about living in these areas. Hiring managers are on-site to share experiences about working at the organization as well as the locations, and candidates are shown videos and given maps and brochures about the town or city. 

Robitaille emphasized, “Let me be very clear. Jaffrey is going to be drastically different from Philadelphia or Chicago, and we've had our business explain what it's like living in a town like this… to foster that change of life and help them build a new career with our organization.” 

MilliporeSigma has hosted almost twenty events since the beginning of 2021, and each would not be possible without collaboration from numerous departments and vendors, including finance, town acquisition, brand marketing, communications, corporate affairs, relocation partners and more. Robitaille noted, “This requires all of these respective functions to be completely aligned because it is a significant investment, and if it's done well, it really works out for us as an organization.”

Achieving their Goals of Improved Acquisition and Retention

Since “Move with MilliporeSigma” began, over 400 job offers have been accepted, and retention has been strong with this program. Robitaille credits this to their focus on transparency, development and collaboration, and he shared how his team is constantly iterating to ensure each event meets the current resource needs of the organization and future employee expectations. He mentioned, “You really need to be cutting edge to stay on top of trends or opportunities to make sure the programs you offer are as modern as possible to keep attracting talent.”

Having that constant collaboration, having a plan of attack to do so and in a really cohesive, collaborative manner has made it successful."

The impact goes beyond MilliporeSigma. Robitaille shared how this program aims to improve the lives of many struggling to find work, and the hiring events are often emotional for many of the candidates. One woman was even in tears after getting an offer, since she lost her job to layoffs during the pandemic and was at risk of losing her apartment. She said that this opportunity is allowing her to reset her life.

“Move with MilliporeSigma” is an ongoing program, and Robitaille indicated, “We’re always evolving to make sure we’re on top of where the talent is. This is what will keep us growing as an organization and doing this on top of our routine talent attraction and retention programs really raises the bar in terms of finding candidates to join the organization.” 

To hear from and connect with CHRO peers on mission critical topics, such as the talent shortage, join your local Evanta CHRO Community and reserve your spot at one of Evanta’s CHRO Executive Summits this fall.

Special thanks to Adam Robitaille and MilliporeSigma.

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