Historically manufacturers have found it relatively straight forward to find qualified employees who desire long term employment in manufacturing, however the increasing demand for relevant skills in today's highly competitive global market has shifted meaning that simply focusing on putting bums in seats is no longer an effective strategy.
The idea that finding and retaining talent is a considerable challenge for Canadian manufacturers is not a new concept. Studies have found this to be in the top concerns for manufacturers across Canada dating back to 2012, if not before.
The concern initially emerged prior to the global economic reset in 2007 and 2008, then cooled its heals during the recession years, re-emerging in 2011 and 2012 following what I’ll call a re-stabilization for many manufacturers. In the earlier years, the need for talent was more a “bum in seat” need. Baby boomers were retiring, and more employees were needed to fill key positions and vacancies.
Today the need has changed, and putting bums in seats is not sufficient. The need for talent today has shifted to quickly finding employees who want to engage in manufacturing-related jobs, and attracting talent that brings new skills, ideas, and creativity.
The need has become so great that simply seeking out the best talent is no longer sufficient, and instead becoming a great place where employees want to work is now the priority. This is why programs like “Canada’s Top 100 Employers,” and, “Canada’s Best Employers,” have become a key ingredient in the war for talent.
Despite all the glimmer and glamor, even a prestigious company who covets one of these awards is having the same challenges in finding talent. What’s worse is that if company values, culture, and environment don’t align with what the award suggests, new employees are taking to the airwaves to vent their frustrations, and websites like www.glassdoor.com provide them plenty of room to do so.
So what can a manufacturer do?
Fortunately there are some simple and effective solutions to win the war on talent, although they might be counter-intuitive for manufacturers, who are often less verbose about their place in the community and the Canadian workplace.
Make it a goal to become known. By participating in local and regional events such as conferences, parades, and tradeshows, potential employees become aware that a manufacturer exists. Joining organizations such as the Excellence in Manufacturing Consortium can help in increasing awareness through their ongoing cooperation with local and regional partners such as Economic Development. The more you are known, the better chance you have of attracting talent.
Walk the talk. Don’t invest time and money making the front office glitzy if the plant is dull. It’s far better to have a consistent image than one that suggests your business isn’t what it really is. For example, replace abrasive buzzers sounding break-time with a more pleasant tone; provide employees with specific times to check their phones or respond to messages without impacting production; allow flexibility in hours of work where possible. Simple changes focus on making the environment pleasant for existing employees that in turn will become a draw for new talent.
Ask for Referrals. Your existing employees are your best source for new employees. With little to no investment, employees can often refer others who they believe would be a good candidate for existing opportunities. A word of caution here, however. To ensure you find the right candidates, you must do more than just suggest you, “need employees.” Taking the time to spell out the qualifications for the role, as well as the cultural fit required for the organization, provides context to ensure a lower chance of employees referring someone who might not be the right fit.
Finding and keeping the right talent is a challenge not likely to disappear any time soon. What’s important to recognize is that making simple changes in how we promote and position our businesses can make all the difference in the world as to whether we find people or have the right ones come knocking at our door.
© Shawn Casemore 2017. All rights reserved.