Talent is the newest competitive front for manufacturers. There are endless news stories about labor shortages. The last couple of years have changed the methods for recruiting, the types of positions you need to fill, and the expectations applicants have for employers.
A study by The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte estimates that there will be 2.1 million unfilled manufacturing jobs by 2030. What’s driving all of this increased competition?
Two factors, both accelerated by COVID, are at the heart of this issue.
First, approximately 1.4 million manufacturing jobs were lost in the first few months of the pandemic. 570,000 of those jobs have yet to return. In the six years previous to the pandemic, the industry added a total of 600,000 jobs. The numbers only tell part of the story.
The pandemic also spurred a digital leap. Technology and tools changed quickly. These changes altered the types of people you needed to successfully fill roles, both entry-level and skilled. To keep up with how your business will look in three, five, or 10 years, you need people who can learn new technologies and are comfortable developing advanced digital skills.
Your changing needs mean the expectations of qualified talent will change. Employees that can learn and adapt in a digital environment are more likely to do their research and, possibly, complete the application process fully on their mobile device. They will research the company on social media and look for text updates about jobs or application status. On top of that, they’ll give up if things are not easy. Their expectations of the job research, search and application process will be similar to other services they use regularly.
That’s a tough combination. There are more open jobs than ever, and you need completely different people to fill those jobs. And those people will expect different things from your company.
Manufacturers can no longer rely on increasing hourly pay, improving benefits, or adding flexible work schedules as recruiting tools. There’s always a competitor out there that can and will one-up you. The qualified talent is looking for more.
The “Big Guys” in the competitive set are facing similar challenges and are overcoming them by utilizing:
- Employer branding and communications teams. Corporate employees and teams who focus solely on building the company’s reputation as an employer. Their entire mission is retention and acquisition.
- Fully digital experiences. The big competitors invest in technology that enables an easy, mobile-friendly approach to the hiring process. This helps HR with effectiveness and attracts the right candidates.
- High-levels of awareness. The biggest players are well known. They don’t have the education curve that medium and small manufacturers face. They don’t need to spend time or money getting applicants to notice them or explaining to applicants what they do.
WHAT’S MARKETING’S ROLE
An applicant’s perception of you is shaped by two key things:
- What they hear and see about you from other sources. They’re taking advice from family, counselors, teachers or other community resources. They see your signs, interact at job fairs, and form their impressions all along the way.
- What they find on your digital properties. They’re looking at your website, your social media channels, and online reviews of your workplace.
As an example, if an applicant visits your website and it’s outdated, hard to navigate or otherwise difficult, it will start to affect their perception of working at your company. They’ll begin to ask questions like – are payroll and benefits systems outdated, too? What will the training be like? Is this company preparing for the future and growing?
With the other large manufacturing employers, they don’t ask those questions. Finding hiring information is easy, and their application process is frictionless.
Marketing can, and should, help your company’s recruiting efforts by creating and building the perception of the company that will attract ideal candidates.
Marketing’s goal should be to do three things clearly and effectively.
DIFFERENTIATE FROM THE COMPETITION
This is a conversation that’s been a focus on the sales and product marketing side for years. It needs to be a focus on the talent and workforce acquisition side now, too. The previously mentioned increased competition makes this even more important.
Marketing should take the lead in helping HR and other hiring leaders develop and articulate clear messages about what’s different about working at your company.
ANSWER KEY QUESTIONS
Applicants have more choices for manufacturing jobs and more expectations than ever before. They’ll naturally have more questions. Your marketing team, whether internal or a vendor/partner, should focus on answering a few key questions for potential employees.
Recently, I drove down a road in our area with a variety of manufacturers. Many of them had several “Now Hiring” or “Open Interview” signs out front. They were paired with business names like “WW Welding & Steel” or “XYZ Manufacturing.” While I’m familiar with the business’ names and drive down that road frequently, I know little about what they actually do.
Here are key questions your business should strive to answer clearly and frequently:
- What does your company do or make? The local area might know the name of the business, know someone who’s worked there or drive by it frequently, but there’s a good chance they don’t know what you do or what you make. Remember, messaging for potential employers is not the same as sales messaging. Communicate clearly, without industry lingo or insider descriptions.
- Who are you hiring? Applicants want to know quickly if they should be applying for this job or not. Be clear and up-to-date about the positions you have open and the skillsets, experience and other qualifications needed.
- Why would I want to work there? If pay and benefits are all equal, or yours are a little bit less, you’ll need a compelling reason why an applicant would choose to work there over another job. Invest time and resources into figuring this out.
- How do I apply and what’s the process? If hiring is a top priority for your business, how to apply for a job should be easy. On top of that, don’t leave applicants wondering what the next steps will be and when they will occur. The “big guys” have process bars on their applicant process, ways to log in and check an application’s status, and other automated tools. If you’re not ready to make those investments, find other ways to set expectations about the process.
REACH THE RIGHT CANDIDATES
Increased competition and changing needs likely mean a different approach to finding the right people. Developing and executing a plan to improve and increase application volume should be a joint effort between human resources and marketing. Facilitate these conversations if you have to, or at the very least, ensure each department knows what the other is doing or expects.