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Domtar is in the hunt for the ‘manufacturing athlete’

GREG PETERS Community Contributor • Nov 9, 2015 at 8:30 AM

KINGSPORT — “Manufacturing athlete” is terminology that Domtar Mill Manager Bill MacPherson favors when he speaks about the mill employees and the future of the Kingsport facility.

“The analogy ties in with sports but any great football team has the best potential players and the best facility,” said MacPherson. “We feel that we have that here in Kingsport, and we want to keep attracting the best of the best.”

With that thought in mind, the Human Resources department at Domtar has gone through changes over the past year. Included in the changes were hiring a new Human Resource director and the restructuring of a hiring plan that plays strongly on the involvement of mill employees.

A team, represented by different areas of the mill, referred to as the Selection Oversight Group, now works with HR in all aspects of the hiring process. Aside from handling applications at hiring events, they also handle testing and tours for selected applicants.

The team was put to the test in April. Domtar held an initial hiring event at the Kingsport Civic Auditorium and received over 800 applications.

From there the process casts a wider net among employees. Instead of a typical one-on-one job interview, prospective applicants are then randomly selected for a structured board interview made up of employees from different departments as well as varying years of experience.

Employees leading the interviews participate on a voluntary basis and have all taken part in interview training that encompasses the NOWLIN selection process. Key to the NOWLIN process is that it involves employees in the applicant selection process and a stake in their success.

The interviews are based on a standard protocol and encompass areas that include work record, motivation and communication. Interviewers rate applicants individually then reach a consensus that is integrated with previous testing.

“Employees should — and they do — care about who they work with and that is why the process has worked so well,” added MacPherson. “The decision and commitment by the mill employees in the process impacts our future.”

Another change in the application process is a new Candidate Referral System that allows each employee the opportunity to submit the name of a possible candidate. These names go into a separate pool and are drawn for the application process as hiring is needed. Over 50 percent of those chosen through this process have been offered employment.

Teddy White has seen nothing but positive results from the new hiring methods. He has been with the mill for 28 years. Aside from being a part of the Selection Oversight Group, he is also vice-president of the mill’s union.

“We have tried for years to be able to refer people, because who is going to refer someone that reflects badly on them?” said White. “These processes have proved to be a positive joint effort with both the union and company. It also has motivated employees and gave a boost to morale. ”

Domtar is the largest integrated marketer and manufacturer of uncoated freesheet paper in North America, with an annual paper production capacity of approximately 3.4 million tons of uncoated freesheet paper. The Kingsport mill currently staffs approximately 350 employees.

Mr. Peters is a former Times-News sportswriter and current Domtar employee.

For more go to www.domtar.com.