In 2021 the propane industry experienced more than 70 mergers and acquisitions, the majority of which were multigenerational, family-owned and -operated businesses. In today’s economy, propane marketers face a myriad of challenges when it comes to maintaining a self-sustaining and profitable operation.
They face a number of obstacles, such as addressing new legislative issues, escalated costs for product and transport, the requirement of necessary technology, employee retention combined with a shortage of qualified candidates, cash flow, or simply the lack of a next generation to take the helm.
The decision to exit the propane industry can be an emotional and difficult process for both the marketer and their employees, all the while placing uncertainty in the minds of the company’s customers.
The first steps made by the acquiring company are crucial in instilling confidence about the company’s future, establishing a relationship with its current employees, and most importantly confirming their roles within it.
One individual very familiar with the importance of the transition process is James Devens, vice president of operations with Superior Plus Propane. Devens served as a captain in the United States Army and is currently responsible for managing Superior Plus Propane retail operations.
He brings more than 30 years of industry experience and expertise, including executive positions within the natural gas and liquified petroleum gas (LPG) industry at Inergy Services and AmeriGas Propane.
Over the last 24 months, Superior Plus has acquired eight companies. A crucial part of this process is the retention and onboarding of the company’s employees. Devens said it’s extremely important to immediately reassure the employees that the camaraderie and work environment the industry is known for will remain.
“It’s a challenging time to find quality people,” he said. “We can’t afford to lose those that have already committed to our industry.”
Devens also noted that the industry relationships and long-term outlook the acquiring company has is important to share in regards to establishing trust with the incoming team.
“The reputation of the acquiring company is paramount, too, and that begins on day one when our team starts the transitions process,” he said. “We want to set the best example possible.”
“These valuable employees were committed to the previous leadership due to the trust and respect built over many years. It’s important to make it clear that my team and I plan to earn that same respect and continue the commitment the previous leadership had to them,” he continued.
Whether focusing on the retention of your current workforce or bringing new individuals into your team, the challenges we face are difficult. The LPG industry has an aging workforce, and it is important to our future that we take the correct steps to bring both civilian and military candidates into our industry. Find a few of the items that are key to a company’s successful recruitment and retention process below:
1. Company Image
Today’s younger generations have been raised with the ability to have instant access to any and all information; they use this frequently when seeking employment. A potential candidate uses many open-source platforms to conduct research on potential employers to better understand the company, pay scales and its culture.
It is crucial for a company to be proactive in molding their digital image and updating its mission relevant to the current times. Forming and maintaining the company’s image will ensure that potential candidates are provided the clear and informative narrative your company wants to portray.
2. Career Description
Companies that write concise but comprehensive job descriptions receive more military and civilian candidates. Keep in mind that today’s younger generations are well informed and like to know all the facts. When a company writes a concise job description with full transparency (including pay potential) in the job posting, it will quickly establish accurate expectations and a higher level of trust with a potential hire.
3. Wage & Benefit Potential
In today’s world, most individuals look to the hourly wage or salary and benefits prior to applying for a position. Our industry provides a very competitive pay; however, it is important that we properly convey the additional benefits available to younger generations.
The question of whether to disclose salaries in job ads is one that generally sparks much debate. Here’s a statistic that should not be ignored: A study by SMART Recruit Online found that when job ads include a salary range in them, they get over 30% more applicants.
4. Career Progression & Industry Culture
Career progression is important for the younger generations we are attempting to attract into the propane industry. The candidates of today are not only applying for the positions currently available, but are also interested in what a future in the industry will mean for their career.
It’s important that we can convey the opportunities our industry affords applicants while also utilizing the industry’s positive culture to demonstrate the commitment we have to our employees.
Focusing on items like those mentioned above will assist in setting your company up for success. They seem to be simple and obvious recommendations, but we find that many marketers overlook the large impact these items provide.
“The future of our industry will depend on a strong effort from all marketers focusing on a well-thought-out strategy and implementation of their recruitment and retention process,” said Devens.