People

tED’s 30 Under 35: Meet Rexel Holdings USA’s Emilie Schouten

By Joe
Nowlan

In April, the editors of tED magazine sent out a call for
the industry’s “rising stars”—electrical professionals 34 years old or younger
who have the initiative, drive, integrity, and creativity to move the industry
forward in the decades to come. The call drew nominations from all segments of
the industry—distributors, suppliers, rep firms, software/services providers,
and VARs. Here on tedmag.com, we will post a new, full interview with one of
these impressive young people weekly; coverage of all of the honorees can be
found in the July 2012 issue
of tED
. Watch for information about our next “30 Under 35” competition  in
early 2013.

Just like the
price of gasoline or taxes, it seems everyone complains about the difficulty of
attracting young employees to the electrical industry in general—but Emilie
Schouten is among those actually doing something about it.

As the
director of leadership development and training at Rexel Holdings, Schouten
organizes and oversees an array of recruiting techniques that attract younger
employees while also orchestrating development and training programs that
encourage them to stay with the company.

While still
a young person herself (33), Schouten is experienced in the recruiting,
interviewing, and hiring process. She also offers a keen insight into what new
graduates are looking for in a prospective employer.

“At
the end of the day, [young employees] really care about an opportunity to make
a difference,” said Schouten, who works out of the company’s Naperville, Ill., office. “What I have seen in the last four years of hiring is that
it isn’t really about the name of the company, per se. It’s really about ‘Are you
going to take care of me?’ and ‘Are you really going to show and invest interest
in my development?’”

Through
the years, Rexel has developed solid relationships with some colleges and
universities that have strong industrial distribution and management programs.
Schouten cites, among others, Texas A&M, Michigan State, and the University
of North Florida. She will frequently send first- or second-year Rexel
employees back to their alma maters to talk about life at Rexel. It has proven
to be an effective recruiting and selling tool.

“There
is no better person to sell you on the company than their buddies, people they’ve
known for a few years who they can go and talk to,” she said. “And usually
nobody wants to go out and recruit more than the people who graduated from that
school.”

The
company will also conduct informational sessions at various colleges throughout
the academic year with guest speakers representing Rexel.

“That
way, we don’t show up on campus only for recruiting day,” she explained. “We’re
not just showing up as a one-time dog-and-pony show, saying ‘Hey, come work for
us.’”

Once hired,
the most impressive of the newer employees become eligible for the company’s
distribution sales and leadership program. Those
selected participate in virtually every phase of the company—warehouse work,
inside sales, outside sales, etc. As participants gradually complete the
program, Schouten explained, they typically move on to an operations role or a
sales role.

“That
is probably the biggest challenge. But it is really fun to see the development
of the people I hire,” she said.

And speaking
of young additions, the pace of Schouten’s own life has accelerated recently
with a “new hire” of a different sort. Emilie and her husband (Steve) welcomed
their first child, Colleen, on June 18—just four days before this interview was
conducted.

While still
admitting to checking her Blackberry “religiously,” the new mother sees how the
whole concept of a normal schedule has been radically changed.

“The word ‘early’
is no longer in our vocabulary,” Emilie laughed.

No details
yet on Colleen’s benefits package or to which Rexel leadership program she has
been assigned.

Joe
Nowlan is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached
at jcnowlan@msn.com.

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