How Manufacturers can be Proactive in Recruiting and Retaining Talent

posted on: Wednesday January 1, 2014

DSC_6717While the region of the country will dictate what kind of employee shortage manufacturing is seeing – from CNC operators to software writers – they’re seeing a shortage nonetheless. With automation becoming more prevalent, certain shortages are not emergencies. However, the manufacturing industry as a whole is under the gun to recruit young talent. Joel Hans of wrote an article “Finding and Keeping a Next-Gen Workforce” that describes action that manufacturers can take to build up their workforce again.

Another Look at Resumes

One of the major issues in solving the shortage is that of those applying to work, qualified candidates seem to be few and far between. This is the first obstacle Hans tackles. What employers can be doing differently to drastically change their luck is shift how they view their applicants’ histories. He suggests to stop looking at the specific qualifications and focus on potential. Hans quotes Joseph Lampinen, director of Kelly Services Americas Product group as an example: “Let’s say [the applicant is] a software engineer that has been displaced out on the West Coast, in Silicon Valley. They have the raw talent to program, but they just need to pick up the right programming language and they can go to Detroit and program embedded software, or work in developing infotainment systems for the automakers. It’s a matter of applying the talent in different contexts.”

If an applicant is eager to learn, motivated, and exhibits quick learning, employers should be willing to invest various training in the employee. As with any job, grooming a new employee to a specific job can often result in more success than an employee who cannot break out of old habits where there are operational or systematic differences. In this way, employee potential can be even more valuable than employee experience. Advancing an employee through training will also make the job more appealing to the candidate. Lampinen says, “One of the things candidates recognize as an investment in their own career is when an employer will offer training and credentialing opportunities.” Hans points out that these opportunities also help employers retain their talent.

Retaining employees is equally, if not more, important than recruiting. The Kelly Global Workforce Index shows that employees are always on the lookout for new opportunities and favor switching employers to advance their careers. The more growth and change an employer can offer an employee, the more likely he or she will stay.

Changing the Pitch

The public’s perception of manufacturing is a giant burden on the industry and its efforts to attract new talent. Hans’ article explores reasons for this and how to help change that perception. Lampinen says, “People envision a dirty, not technologically-advanced workplace. Maybe an uncomfortable environment.” Hans points out that the recent hardship in the industry also makes potential employees afraid to invest in a manufacturing career.

Perception is just one part of the problem; some of the actual expectations of the industry can’t compete with other jobs. The hours for the manufacturing are demanding, and there aren’t opportunities to work from home as many people are looking to do right now. For people who are turned off by these issues, recruiting is a waste of time.

However, finding team-oriented people who want to make a decent living and do something that matters will make a difference for manufacturers. The key is to continually reach out and let potential candidates know the jobs exist – and that they matter. Lampinen says, “If you’re embedding the software in a medical device, or an automatic defibrillator, it’s crucial that software works perfectly. If you’re a medical device manufacturer, it is a great appeal to be able to say to a software writer, ‘Come work for us. You can write the software that’s going to save somebody’s life.’” This pitch of meaningful work goes for more than medical device manufacturers. Lampinen elaborates that the same goes for anti-lock brake manufacturers and those working to send probes to Mars, for example.

Feeding the Source

Manufacturers shouldn’t neglect to help grow the up-and-coming workforce. Today’s high school and college students are tomorrow’s employees. There is a current initiative in colleges across the nation to not only change the perception of manufacturing, but also improve the skillset. Curricula for manufacturing programs are being aggressively updated and promoted. Employers can reach out to colleges to participate in Program Advisory Committees, offer to guest speak, and invite students to their facilities for field trips. Targeting high schools will also make a difference in the size of these college programs. Hans writes, “Lampinen suggests that manufacturers could look into creating programs where students try to build a product, and then get to see how it’s actually made on the plant floor. That way, they get to understand the problem-solving inherent in the business, and break down their preconceptions about what the work looks like.”

Recruiting high school students to manufacturing programs at colleges does more than just widen the pool of future candidates. Students who are not on track to earn a general degree from a university may not think that college is a viable option. Allowing them to see what kind of work they can do and how practical and accessible a hands-on education is could help more students choose higher education. Considering the high wages a person in this industry can earn after only a few years, recruiting high school students can be life-changing for them.

Show off your Hard Work

Thousands of companies across the nation have worked hard to improve safety, ergonomics, productivity, training, and many other things that make employee jobs and lives better. Employers should show off any changes they’ve made and their statistics on resulting improvements. It not only helps make the job more attractive than a similar job elsewhere, it shows students that someone cares about and values the employees at your facility. As the generations progress, these factors become more and more significant to employees.

Load Mover Inc. is a Minnesota-based company that builds quality power tugs that reduce injury and increase productivity in manual material handling. We support the manufacturing industry and applaud growth and upgrades that benefit businesses, people, and the economy. For information about our products, search this site, email, or call 952-767-1720.