Recruiting the Future: Insight from College Students on Attracting and Retaining Talent

Emily M. Moscato, PhD
A Joint Research Project Between IFDA and St. Joseph's University


Tight labor markets can be deceiving. It is not only about getting enough workers, it is about getting enough workers with the right skill sets and determining how necessary skill sets can be developed in your workforce to ensure sustainable success. The dynamics of the financial and labor markets, coupled with social, political, and technological changes, invites reflection on best practice for recruiting and for investing in supportive company culture measures to strengthen retention and the attractiveness for diversity in the workforce. Given the labor market, changing demographics, and IFDA’s goals to support diversity and inclusion among its members, we sought to hear from the target market of college students about their desires, hopes, and fears as they explore career options.
In order better position foodservice distributors to attract college students, we need to understand what students are thinking about the job market and in particular foodservice distributors. The industry faces the same challenges as many other industries whose brands and corporate structure don’t interact directly with the general consumer. Foodservice distributors may provide essential services, but distributors don’t have the clout of brands such as Coca-Cola, Nike, or Amazon. Nor do they have the reputation of being sought-after employers among business students, such as IBM, Deloitte, or P&G. To be sure, there are valid arguments why foodservice distributors could be better workplaces, but these other companies have recognized names and strong marketing and recruiting, and with these assets comes particular prestige and desire for association.
This research focuses on gaining insight from college students on their career preparation, what factors they value when seeking employment, and their awareness and interest in the foodservice distribution industry. Data gathering takes the forms of a survey, a focus group, informal interviews, and observations. The survey will be the main focus of this report. The survey has been distributed to select college business majors, analyzed, and will be discussed below.
The ultimate goal of this research is to provide IFDA and its members strategies for recruitment and retention of college students. 
Objective: Gain a deeper understanding of the motivations, interests, and behaviors of college students regarding:
  1. Job search and recruitment process.
  2. Work expectations and career priorities.
  3. Awareness and perceptions of the foodservice distribution industry and career opportunities.

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