IPEX is a manufacturer of thermoplastic piping systems that services customers throughout North America, operating in mechanical and plumbing, industrial, municipal infrastructure and electrical telecommunications.
Across the continent, the company employs 3,400 at 27 manufacturing plants, 25 distribution centers and 20 office locations.
"And that number is only growing," Stargratt said.
But it wasn't always like this.
During Rubber News' and Plastics News' recent Women Breaking the Mold Forum, Stargratt shared the company's story of creating an expanded and diverse work force in a "very challenging environment."
In 2021, she said, the company embarked on a strategy "of growth with purpose."
This meant attracting top talent; supporting employees in their leadership and growth; fostering diversity, equity and inclusion; and building the company's culture, rooted in collaboration, caring and "unwavering commitment" to the company's customers, communities and itself.
"In order for HR to be able to contribute to this strategy, we really needed to challenge ourselves and rethink some of the assumptions that we had about ourselves," she said.
At the time, the human resources department of IPEX was in what she called "a transactional state."
"We did tasks that managers came and asked us to do," Stargratt said, adding the talent acquisition team, which was made up of only four people and supported only salary hiring, was "largely reactive."
And for hourly hiring, she added, the HR team didn't even participate and outsourced the task to third party agencies.
On top of this, the company's technology for the HR department was inefficient, lacked integration and was unable to provide measurable, key data to the business, she said.
"And like many in our industry, the beginning of 2021 presented many, many challenges to us that we weren't prepared for."
This included a "hyper-growth" strategy, which meant acquisitions, expansions and heightened need for talent that the company "just couldn't provide."
At the same time, IPEX faced increased demand for products and an aging work force amid a labor shortage.
In manufacturing, she said, the industry is projected to face a mass retirement of more than 700,000 skilled trade workers by 2028.
"Recruitment of talent was not treated as a business priority," Stargratt said. "And there was absolutely no strategy.
"It became very clear to us—and quickly— that we needed to undergo a transformation to enhance and refine how we recruit talent in order to support the company's growth strategy. Otherwise, we weren't growing."
So before IPEX's talent acquisition team could make changes to operational hiring, it needed to make changes to its own role in the company.
IPEX devised a plan to take the talent acquisition team where it needed to go, Stargratt said, based on three key pillars: aligning the talent staff model and technology; aligning staff to production volumes; and developing a compelling and differentiated employment branding proposition.