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Attracting the best job candidates for your natural products business – podcast

Angela Marturano, president, Orchid Holistic Search, knows what it takes for a natural product company to hire the right talent, and it all starts with transparency.

The right people leading a supplement or functional food company can take the company to the next stage of success, or can mean the brand stays in business at all. But as Angela Marturano, president, Orchid Holistic Search, said, “Working for a company, you're dedicating the majority your life to that business. In return, what is a company willing to do for you to make you feel valued?”

It’s a good question. And thankfully, Marturano provided insight into what the top candidates are after when it comes to choosing their employer.

In this podcast with Sandy Almendarez, content director, Informa Markets, Marturano discusses ways companies can shine with job candidates, as well as:

  • Why this industry is so dear to Marturano and her business partner and husband Matt
  • The way COVID-19 has changed business and hiring processes for the natural products industry
  • How brands can attract and retain diverse job candidates

Learn more about hiring, supporting and growing an inclusive workforce in this Natural Products Insider article by Debbie Wildrick, industry strategy consultant.

Podcast Transcript

Sandy Almendarez, content director, Informa Markets: Hi, and welcome to a Healthy Insider Podcast. I am Sandy, and on the phone, I've got Angela Marturano, who is the president of Orchid Holistic Search. Hi, Angela.

Angela Marturano, president, Orchid Holistic Search: Good morning, Sandy. Thanks for having me on.

Almendarez: Absolutely, thank you so much for joining me today. With a background in sales and recruitment in the finance industry, Angela started Orchid Holistic Search in 2010, which is a boutique executive search and recruitment firm for conscious, mission-driven businesses in the natural products industry, including supplements, food and beverages, and wellness and beauty. And she also lives in Costa Rica, which doesn't really apply too much to the conversation, but I just find it interesting and lovely, and I don't often get to speak to someone who lives there.

Marturano: Thank you, Pura Vida. Yes, that was a good introduction and summarizes well what we do.

Almendarez: Great, so can you tell me more about Orchid Holistic Search, and the role that it plays in the natural products industry?

Marturano: Sure thing. So back in 2010, I was recruiting in another industry in the automotive space, and while I loved connecting people in leading search processes, I didn't feel my values aligned with the industry. We were helping a person from one tier-three automotive supplier find a job at another. At around the same time, I had met my husband, who's a naturopathic medical doctor. He focuses on digestive health area. His name is Matt, and he was the one that sparked the idea of us going off on our own, and connecting people to opportunities in an industry where we both felt aligned with the companies and their missions. That's when Orchid Holistic Search was born. We've always been a value-centered firm. We put our heads together and came up with a list of potential clients in the industry, in a basic Excel Spreadsheet format. And we found we didn't have to go too far down the list to find a need in the market. Our very first client was Alacer Corp., makers of Emergen-C, and that's where we started our journey. We helped place a vice president of operations, several other key leaders, and that's what we've done ever since. We partner with leaders whether they're in C-suite private equity or that lead the functional disciplines within an organization, and we act as strategic partners to uncover search needs, align on a hiring process, and cherry pick a slate of top candidates that can help the company grow. We work across functions at a senior level, and you were right, about 65% of our clients are dietary supplements and the branded space, and the rest are food, bev and ingredients.

Almendarez: I understand “Holistic Search,” but where did the Orchid come from?

Marturano: Right before we started our journey, and it's a really good question, we took a trip to Peru and spent some time in the rainforest where orchids are abundant, and we found them to be very beautiful and very unique, and in a world of big box executive search firms we wanted to do things differently and so the orchid really symbolizes a different set of values that we bring to the table. We thought that maybe we could appeal to a more diverse and conscious group of leaders that would be opening their minds to using a search firm that did things a little different.

Almendarez: That is so lovely. This year, our whole lives in our industry has been upended by the coronavirus. So, can you tell me how the how COVID-19 has affected the hiring processes in our industry that you've seen?

Marturano: Definitely. Absolutely, we've all been affected. Costa Rica, the United States, globally, and we all share a sense of unity in that we are in an industry that is lucky to be helping people along their health journey, and providing wellness solutions during this time of fear and uncertainty. In terms of hiring, we first saw a pretty drastic slowdown in hiring in March, April and May. For us, it was the time period where we were hearing from people that, “Hey, we need to focus on our internal manufacturing. We're are re-strategizing. We are maybe even making some headcount reductions in some cases to right size the organizations.” At first, we did see it pretty big slow down. I think a lot of companies in the industry retooled and refocused. If they weren't doing much business direct to consumer and E-Commerce, they definitely are now. They had to refocus on the supply chain aspect of the business. Botanical sourcing was impacted, and some companies I saw reduced the amount of field sales because there just aren't that many calls happening in person as there used to be, so it's changed in a variety of ways. Now, we're starting to see the uptick again. We're starting to see great category growth for the clients we work within immune support, digestive health, and companies that are making home cooking easier. And overall, the ability to work remote; we've seen a lot of companies open their minds to this possibility. I'm personally a firm believer that that you can work productively from wherever in the world that you are. A lot of companies are seeing that, and I think a lot of employees are now feeling empowered to work from home, so that's really changed the face of hiring in our industry for sure.

Almendarez: I'm also seeing that, and I I've been a remote worker. I live in the same city where our office is, but I would work from home four days a week and then go into the office once a week, even before the coronavirus. So, I do love to see that people are rethinking how they can have their workforce, and this also leads to the next thing I want to talk about, which is becoming a more inclusive industry. And this is really what connected us for the first time. Angela and drew me Orchid Holistic Search was the work that you're doing to have a more inclusive industry. So, could you talk to me about your journey to focusing on this area within the industry?

Marturano: Yeah, absolutely. This is become really important to us, and I think it's just the more we dug in, the more we realize that no matter how small our scope is, we're helping about a dozen people in the industry land positions each year, so it's a small impact, but nonetheless we started in the late May time frame. We watched in horror along with the rest of the world when George Floyd was murdered. And we heard people talking. We heard the oppression, we heard the outrage, and we started to feel that, and we started to take a look internally. Now, we didn't immediately blackout our social media or make promises. But what we did start to do was take a look at our actual numbers because I think that's really what speaks the truth, right? How many people in the industry were we placing of color, and the supplement industry in particular and the natural food and beverage can be a pretty homogeneous space to be quite honest. So, we took a look at our placements over the last 10 years, and we don't have a specific demographic, but could you know as best as we can see we were placing about 10% people of color—Black and Hispanic. 30% were women, but we felt like the numbers could definitely be improved so. At that point, we really started digging in, doing some unconscious bias trainings, learning more from diversity, inclusion and belonging leaders. And really, understanding how we could change, how we could impact the hiring process. So, we did things like take a look at how we were writing job requisitions in partnership with their client. We're looking at basically how many, how many candidates per slate were we delivering that we were presenting that were fitting that minority demographic? And so basically, we took a look at all of that, coupled with really starting to just broaden our network. I think that is most impactful place is starting to connect with people that are different from ourselves. So, we're using different questions to uncover diversity in thought processes during interviews, and we mandated some goals for ourselves in terms of how many people of color and how many underrepresented minority demographics we’re presenting to our clients. We don't in the end have the final say, but what we can do is bring forth more diverse slate, the impact is showing the one of the very first searches we lead following sort of changing up. Our own strategy was a vice president level search in the dietary supplement space, and I'm happy to say that last week we placed a woman of color in the in the position. So slowly, step by step, we will get there, and we will make it make a more diverse and inclusive industry.

Almendarez: That is awesome. Congratulations on that placement. That's so great to hear. Marturano: Thank you, yeah, we're very excited, and so is she. And so is the team.

Almendarez: Do you work with the companies on the unconscious bias trainings that the information that you've learned? Do you talk with them about that?

Marturano: We definitely do not position ourselves as experts. As a as a white woman with working with my white husband, I don't feel like we are positioned in a place where we can really teach others yet. There's still a lot for us to learn. So, the short answer is no. Clients that are interested in starting the process and the journey for themselves, there are some phenomenal people that we can help connect them to to lead those trainings, but it's not something that we do personally.

Almendarez: That makes a lot of sense. Can you talk me about your new conscious rewards program?

Marturano: Definitely, I'd love to. We just launched our conscious rewards program, which is a new pricing model that benefits companies that are doing good in the world. Companies that we feel aligned and connected to. We took a look at some criteria for the clients that we work with that led us to believe that they were doing good and acting as a better business. Some of those factors are diversity. So, whether they are a minority- or female-led business. Workplace excellence, so what do the reviews look like on glass door that can be telling. Whether they're connected to partnership with the search firm or other suppliers. Whether they are open to fill in multiple positions with us in a calendar year. Certified B Corp, that's another area, and then start up whether they're seed series A or series B funding showing that they are on a growth track. If companies that meet one or more of these criteria, their fee drops a bit. And it can be pretty substantial if they meet all five of those criteria.

Almendarez: That's awesome. I love hearing that.

Marturano: Thank you.

Almendarez: What should brands keep in mind as they're trying to find a more diverse talent pool for their businesses?

Marturano: Excellent question. As companies are starting to enter a journey, and they want to be more inclusive and hire minorities, diverse groups of people, they should start internally. That includes manager level: employees taking an unconscious bias training themselves, setting internal goals, and then starting to take a look at the job requisitions. What is the language look like? Is it inclusive? Putting yourselves in the in the in the position of a minority. Looking at your company. That might happen to be at this point, predominantly white leadership. What are some areas that make would make me, as a Black candidate, feel attracted to coming to work for your organization? Are there certain benefits, like tuition reimbursement programs, flexibility, working from home? Is the language in the job description inclusive? Is there a mission statement surrounding building an actually more inclusive team? There's a lot of different ways to approach starting the journey to diversity and inclusion, and I think in many cases, like we alluded to earlier, I think it's important to take a look and maybe work with a leader in the space who can help craft that mission internally for each organization

Almendarez: Right. Besides the things you just listed, or maybe you can expound on some of those, but in your experience, what are the top things that high-quality candidates are looking for when they are going to a natural product industry that they may want to work for?

Marturano: I would say the absolute number one factor the candidates are looking for is transparency; transparency and culture. No one has a perfect business, right? There might be some issues with turnover, profitability, culture that the company is trying to work with. Maybe there's been supply chain issues, maybe the branding needs to be overhauled, but I think the very most important thing that that people are looking for in an employer is transparency. What are the problems, and more importantly, what is the company doing to solve those? Transparency and then flexibility. How much is a company willing to do to help a candidate have a quality of life? Working for a company, you're dedicating the majority your life— your daylight hours—to that business. In return, what is a company willing to do for you to make you feel valued? And I think some simple things like vacation time, ability to work remotely. If you do need to come into the office, maybe there's childcare. Maybe there's maternity or paternity leave. Fertility planning, financial wellness. There’s a host of benefits that can demonstrate to candidate that a company is looking out for them and wanting them to have a strong quality of life. And then financially, LTIP, equity, strong benefits and compensation being in alignment or competitive. Those are all areas candidates are looking for.

Almendarez: Thank you so much, Angela, for joining me today for this podcast. I really appreciate you talking about all the great work that you're doing.

Marturano: Absolutely thank you so much for having me on it was fun.

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