Greater Reading Chamber Alliance project aims to keep talent in greater Reading - 4/30/2019
In 2017, researcher Khaled Bahei-Eldin made a big career move to Berks County. He left Albany, N.Y., to take on a new role at EnerSys, the battery maker in Bern Township.
Bahei-Eldin became the director for energy storage systems at EnerSys, joining the company’s product development efforts.
Key to his transition in what could have been a distracting and difficult relocation process was the manufacturer’s onboarding team.
“Moving, especially with family, can be stressful,” he said in an email. “The EnerSys resources for moving and relocation support helped make the transition easier and help my family and I quickly settle in Pennsylvania.
Bahei-Eldin said the onboarding team at EnerSys has established local connections with a real estate agency that helps incoming employees look for great places to live in the area as well as a list of local rental options that offer both short and long term leases.
Promoting Berks County is a key part of the EnerSys onboarding program, which Greater Reading Chamber Alliance CEO Randy Peers said is one of the most sophisticated in the county.
EnerSys promotes Berks by demonstrating to potential candidates that the Reading area can offer a diverse lifestyle from country living to city life, according to Ted Fries, EnerSys vice president of human resources.
“We ensured that they had good information on the many high quality public and private schools in the area,” Fries said. “We worked with our real estate partners to give them a clear guide on the housing options as well as the taxes, which tend to be very competitive on a nationwide basis.
“We also made sure they had exposure to other recently relocated employees who could share firsthand what great things are available in the Reading area.”
EnerSys’s process is a model for a new effort from the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance to help businesses attract and retain employees. GRCA calls it a concierge service, and there are different levels. The full menu of options has not yet been rolled out.
Ellen Albright, GRCA director of workforce development, noted the program will be particularly useful for smaller manufacturers without the means of EnerSys to attract and retain employees.
Jamey Maack, president of Industrial Metal Plating Inc. in Reading, agreed.
Maack heads up a related initiative called NextGen in which local vendors and manufacturers have been trying to work together to tailor services to needs. It helps create opportunities for growth, he said.
“It’s a great marriage with Meet Greater Reading,” Maack said. “It helps us with job retention and attracting new talent.”
Maack said attracting workers that bring ideas from outside what has always been done here or those just out of college can help take the region’s manufacturers to a higher level of productivity and innovation.
Fries said EnerSys program grew from the company’s strategy to leverage technology as a competitive advantage, including investment in a technology center in Berks. That’s where 40 to 50 engineers are working on the company’s next generation of products.
“We realized early on that given the volume, skill set and the need to bring on talent quickly, we would have to source this talent locally and from other geographies and technology hubs in other regions (such as Detroit or Silicon Valley),” Fries said. “We have a very strong, diverse HR team that partnered with the engineering business partners to fully identify the positions/skill sets needed and to discuss strategies we could employ to attract this type of talent to come to EnerSys.”
In addition to onboarding, the team focused on recruiting sources, leveraging its paid internship program to convert interns to full-timers and focus on employer branding.
The employer branding provides employees and potential employees with insight into day to day life of EnerSys to including its overall strategy, financial performance, involvement in the community through organizations such as the United Way, employee activities it sponsors, fitness center, pay levels, benefit offerings, nearby daycare, wellness programs, on-site cafeteria.
On top of that, EnerSys HR promoted forward-thinking projects in each departmnt around technology.
“We highlighted that EnerSys is large enough to fund these types of projects but also small enough that employees who perform well are clearly visible to upper management,” Fries said. “ Lastly, employees who like having direct responsibility for meaningful projects, really excel in our environment.”
For researcher Bahei-Eldin, the program has made a difference.
He likes being able to experience urban and rural life and this area’s easy access to larger cities. Even though he’s settled just over the border in Chester County, he found ways to get involved in the Berks community, and that’s made a difference,too.
“United Way has been a great way to contribute to the local community, and I’ve been participating through EnerSys through salary contributions as well as participating in a local United Way leadership program called Blueprint for Leadership,” he said. “I am mentoring a couple of early career engineers at EnerSys that come from diverse cultural backgrounds and part of the program objective is to grow their leadership skills to they can reciprocate in the community by building and growing others that need the support.” ■
Contact Lisa Scheid: 610-371-5049 or firstname.lastname@example.org.