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Recruiting and Retaining Manufacturing Talent
THE MANUFACTURING TALENT CHALLENGE
Georgia’s manufacturing businesses create an output of $61.1 billion and employ some 270,000 production workers, but even the most successful manufacturing operations struggle with finding qualified talent in today’s employment environment. Baby Boomers, who have made up the bulk of the workforce in the past, are reaching retirement. A tight job market means there are fewer job seekers, making it difficult for companies to expand (or even maintain) their businesses.
While the task of finding and retaining top talent has become more challenging, experts say there are many steps manufacturers can take to enhance their recruiting efforts.
Click the photos below to read more about each topic:
Millennials currently make up about 50% of the U.S. workforce and will account for 75% of all employees globally by 2025. As more Baby Boomers leave the workforce, companies must increasingly turn to millennials (born between 1980 and the late 1990s) to fill job openings.
Just as Baby Boomers disrupted American culture, lifestyles, and the workplace when they supplanted the “Greatest Generation” of their parents, millennials have different values, objectives, and expectations than their predecessors.
For example, older workers who endured the hardships of the Great Depression and World War II tended to place the highest value job stability and the size of their paycheck. Millennials want a good salary, but they are also concerned with working for a socially responsible employer with a good reputation whose values match their own.
This demographic shift calls for new recruitment strategies to find and attract this new generation of candidates. Millennials spend a significant amount of time on their smartphones and using social media. They seldom see traditional “help wanted” newspaper ads. Add job vacancies to mobile-friendly social media platforms, and you increase the likelihood they will respond.
Other millennial-friendly suggestions include:
MAKE IT EASY TO APPLY AND INTERVIEW
A simple online application and a streamlined interview process establish that your company cares about the candidate’s time. Quick hiring decisions also indicate your company is nimble and shows concern for individuals.
STAY CURRENT WITH TECHNOLOGY
Millennials were raised on technology, and they prefer companies that use innovative platforms to simplify how they do business. They avoid ones they perceive as stagnant or “old fashioned”.
OFFER OPPORTUNITIES FOR LEARNING
These individuals want to grow and learn, so provide plenty of training – especially through digital platforms. Consider using a learning management system with a video training program. Gamifying the training process with quizzes and certificates can help keep employees of all ages engaged in the content.
EMPHASIZE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
Millennial workers want an employer with a good reputation. Promote your sustainable and responsible practices, community involvement and philanthropy.
PROVIDE WORK-LIFE BALANCE
Millennials like being able to customize how they balance their work hours and their personal time. Flexibility to set their own hours or choose different shifts helps them achieve that balance.
While competitive pay and benefits matter to everyone, millennials attach more value to a positive environment with a supportive corporate culture. Empower employees to do their jobs and trust them to achieve results. Foster an environment where employees feel comfortable enough to be their authentic selves at work.
OPERATIONALIZE YOUR CORPORATE VALUES
Millennial employees want to feel good about the impact their work has on society and the world around them. Focusing on doing right by your customer and empowering your employees to treat customers, vendors and other stakeholders fairly will increase employee satisfaction.
TAPPING INTO TRAINED VETERANS
Another promising source for both hourly and salaried employees for manufacturing operations is former U.S. Armed Forces members. There are more than 18.2 million veterans in the United States, including some 650,000 in Georgia. Although it is sometimes skimmed over during the recruitment process, military service is an excellent training ground for manufacturers.
Veterans often possess the technical expertise, leadership skills and teamwork savvy to quickly become productive employees in the private sector.
TARGET VETERANS FOR COMPANY EVENTS
When community members come to your factory, send invitations to local veterans. Set up a table specifically addressing opportunities for veterans. Recognize their service during your presentations. The regional Veterans Affairs office can help you identify ex-military members in your area.
PROVIDE LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES
Military veterans are accustomed to regular training to enhance their skills. Some will already possess the expertise you need, while others have a solid basis for retraining.
NETWORK WITH MILITARY ORGANIZATIONS
Building a reputation as a “military-friendly company” goes a long way toward attracting veterans. Sponsor and/or attend military events (including job fairs). Post your openings on military job boards, such as Vet Fast Track.
MENTOR NEW HIRES WITH FELLOW VETERANS
Knowing they will work with another veteran who has been through the adjustment to civilian life is particularly helpful to those recently discharged.
PROVIDE A CLEAR PATH FOR CAREER DEVELOPMENT
In the military, servicemen and women know exactly the path their career can take, and how long it will take them to get there. Uncertainty about the future can be anxiety-provoking following a transition to the private sector. Give them an understanding of the opportunities in front of them to help motivate them to move forward with your company and be promoted.
CONNECTING WITH COMMUNITY
Most manufacturers are already active in their communities, but with a little extra effort, you can leverage that engagement to enhance employee recruitment.
Getting involved in local charities, schools, and civic events helps raise your public profile and makes you more visible to the pool of local job candidates.
It also reinforces your positive corporate brand as a good citizen. A few strategic tweaks can expand those benefits to recruitment:
BUILD A TALENT PIPELINE
Working closely with technical colleges and high schools provides your company positive exposure among young people who will soon join the work force, particularly in skilled trades. You can identify good candidates early on while they are still in school.
In a similar vein, apprenticeship programs are a great way to identify potential future job candidates. Georgia is one of 10 states working with the German-American chamber of Commerce to establish apprenticeship programs using successful European models. Students average spending 50% to 70% of their class time working for participating companies, giving employers and candidates detailed exposure to one another. The Technical College System of Georgia (TCSG) also conducts apprenticeship programs in several disciplines through eight of its schools.
ORGANIZE COMPANY-WIDE VOLUNTEER EVENTS
Allow existing employees to use a certain amount of paid time to volunteer in the local community each quarter. Develop volunteering and philanthropic relationships with organizations that create a touch point between your company and potential future employees, such as trade schools, high schools and job training programs.
FULLY LEVERAGE ONLINE JOB POSTINGS
Although traditional job sites such as Indeed.com and ZipRecruiter.com can be useful, there are many non-traditional online platforms to help with recruiting. For example, the Georgia Manufacturing Alliance recently launched an online job posting platform. Local members post openings in a variety of categories, from engineering and warehousing to finance and executive management. Additionally, look at opportunities to post your openings on industry-specific association job boards and newsletters. While LinkedIn is not widely used by manufacturing floor employees, Facebook can be a great resource. Boosted Facebook posts, active participation in industry/geographic job groups and geographic or demographic-targeted Facebook ads can be very effective in identifying potential employees and increasing applications.
PARTNER WITH STATE AND REGIONAL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT GROUPS
Your Chamber of Commerce, the Georgia Department of Economic Development, TCSG, and trade organizations offer a variety of programs for new and existing employees that can be customized to your specific needs and goals.
RETAINING TOP TALENT
Many of the techniques for attracting talented workers will also help you retain those employees for the long-term. Finding, hiring, and training new workers is expensive and time-consuming, versus taking steps keep the good workers you have.
According to Glassdoor, the average U.S. company spends about $4,000 to hire a new employee, taking up to 52 days to fill a position.
Efforts to retain employees can often be more cost-effective than replacing them. Here are a few practices to consider:
PROVIDE ONGOING TRAINING AND CROSS-TRAINING
Help them learn valuable skills to improve in their existing role prepare them for a promotion. Consider a certificate program that recognizes employees when certain skills are mastered.
RECOGNIZE OUTSTANDING WORK
Public recognition of great results goes a long way toward encouraging employees to work smarter and productively.
CREATE A CLEAR PATH FOR ADVANCEMENT
Not everyone wants to spend years doing the exact same job. If employees feel like they are working toward a goal – a supervisory position, a more challenging technical role, or a position where they can train other workers – they are less likely to become disengaged and look for work outside of your company.
EXPRESS GRATITUDE FOR ALL TEAM MEMBERS
While top performers often get the most attention, everyone in the organization deserves gratitude for the role they play in helping your team win. Encourage managers to take the time to learn the type of feedback that is most meaningful to each employee. While everyone appreciates money as a reward, some employees might crave recognition or being praised in front of the team more than they desire a small bonus.
Nothing undermines employee morale faster than whispered rumors and uncertainty about the future. Be as honest as you can about upcoming changes and ask them for their feedback when their input can actually have an impact. Every business goes through times of uncertainty, but if your workers feel like they are part of the solution, they are more likely to ride out the storm with you.
COMMUNICATE YOUR VISION FOR THE FUTURE
When employees regularly hear what the company’s plans and goals are, they are better able to see how the enterprise’s future meshes with their own goals.
PAY FAIR WAGES
Most companies can’t afford to be the top paying plant in their region. However, in a tight job market, low salaries and stingy benefits will drive away your best workers. Local salary surveys can help you find the proper balance in your compensation package.
SHARE THE WEALTH
Bonus pools, employee stock/equity options and similar programs give workers a chance to share in the company’s success, and reinforces their contributions toward those positive returns.
OTHER HELPFUL TIPS
REWARD EMPLOYEE REFERRALS
Set up a program to pay employees for referring candidates. These are typically the best source of good workers. Stagger the rewards based on length of time the new employee is retained (e.g. Distribute the total bonus at intervals between the hire date, at 30 days, at 60 days, etc.)
HOST AN OPEN HOUSE
Letting candidates learn more about your opportunities, talk to current employees, and tour your plant improves their perception of the company and gives them an idea of the experience they might have working there.
UPGRADE YOUR ONLINE STORYTELLING
Your website should give a basic picture of your company, your corporate values, customer base and open jobs. but to really stand out, include a page about company culture and employee experience. Consider adding testimonial videos from current employees to add a human element to the recruiting experience. A robust presence on LinkedIn can help recruit executives, but Facebook postings and YouTube videos are more likely to draw frontline employees.
ACTIVELY MANAGE YOUR ONLINE REPUTATION
Look at reviews and ratings on sites like Google, Glassdoor, Indeed and others to see what is being said about your company. Take note of any feedback that can be implemented to improve the employee experience. Craft a thoughtful response to each review, whether the comments are positive or negative. For negative reviews, avoid becoming defensive or fighting back. Thank the reviewer for their feedback and give them a way to contact management directly to express their concerns (out of public view). Showing engagement and empathy in these interactions are critical in online reputation management, and can greatly influence your company's ability to hire top talent.
The best way to attract and retain employees is to create an environment where they want to work. Going above and beyond by implementing some of these tips might just give you an edge over your competitors.