Become an employer of choice

Strategies to attract and retain manufacturing employees.


As manufacturers map their 2015 workforce plans, a key activity will be assessing the mechanisms they use to attract new talent and retain key players. An effective talent acquisition and retention program helps organizations shore up the skills gap and minimize the negative effects of employee turnover, such as increased overtime costs, expanded cycle times, more frequent downtime, and other related soft costs.

In today’s hiring atmosphere that increasingly favors candidates, employers who can quickly appeal to and hire new workers will be better positioned to maintain productivity as their teams respond to staffing vacancies. The ideas presented below can help hiring managers improve workforce stability and impact the organization’s bottom line. 

Know the hiring landscape
The Society for Human Resource Management’s February 2015 LINE Employment Report confirms that manufacturers continue to fuel a strong hiring landscape, with about half (50.5%) saying they plan to add staff. This optimistic hiring projection followed January 2015’s 17.2-point increase in recruiting difficulty when compared to the same month in the previous year.

Additionally, Randstad’s Manufacturing & Logistics Employee Confidence Index (a measure of U.S. manufacturing workers’ overall confidence in the economy, job market, and their personal employment situations) hit a historic high in the fourth quarter of 2014. Workers also showed growing confidence in their ability to find a new job, another indication of the candidate-driven job market and the potential for growing competition among employers for top talent.

Know the hot jobs
Knowing the industry’s most in-demand and hardest-to-find skill sets is knowledge that helps inform what strategies and company offerings will best secure scarce talent resources.

For example, Randstad expects expanded opportunities for forklift operators, production supervisors, and quality-control technicians over the next 12 months. By anticipating higher competition for these roles, employers can better position both their offers and employer “brands” for highest appeal to potential employees.

The money strategy
Although increased pay remains a highly persuasive recruiting tool, it’s not realistic for most organizations to raise salaries across the board. However, the strategic use of financial incentives can be extremely effective when recruiting for hard-to-fill positions.

For example, we’ve seen manufacturers increase starting pay by $1.50/hour to bring on an experienced forklift operator. Pay increases also help managers retain top staff members who are already trained and producing.

According to recent Randstad research, manufacturing and logistics employers clearly indicate that salary increases are the most effective tool to decrease turnover rates. Of the 10 industry segments that participated in the Randstad study, manufacturers felt strongest that bonuses are highly effective at heightening employee retention.

Motivations beyond money
To successfully contend for top candidates, manufacturers will not only need to assess the competitiveness of their compensation packages, but also the strength of their employer brand and overall workplace environment.

A recent Randstad employer branding study found that when rating the criteria that influence their choice of an employer, respondents first selected salary and benefits, followed by long-term job security and a pleasant work atmosphere. Both of the latter components are slightly more important to candidates over the age of 35 and those without a college degree. Candidates under 35, as well as those with a college degree, were more apt than their peers to expect work-life balance.

Keep experts on board longer
Retiring baby boomers combined with a looming skills gap presents significant challenges to manufacturing employers. Because an organization’s tenured employees are often involved in training less experienced staff, retaining those experts past eligible retirement age can help assure that appropriate knowledge transfer occurs as employees transition through their careers.

When Randstad recently asked companies if they tailor their retention programs to generational preferences, 51% of manufacturing hiring managers replied in the affirmative. This indicates an opportunity for many organizations to finesse this piece of their retention strategy.

For example, our employer branding research shows that a more relaxed work schedule and friendly work atmosphere are two top conditions motivating employees to work beyond their anticipated retirement schedules. Investigating tenured employees’ desires around company flexibility and discussing options with those approaching retirement may be a worthwhile effort for organizations looking to shore up current and future workforce needs.

Wooing the younger generation
Refining workforce strategy along generational lines is particularly important to attract the youngest generation of workers (Generation Z), who have distinct inclinations related to topics such as workplace environment, employee benefits, and means of communication.

Randstad recently conducted a worldwide study on the workplace preferences of Gen Z (16- to 20-year-olds), which reveals a number of interesting trends of the incoming workforce. For example, Gen Zs say the opportunity for advancement is the No. 1 factor motivating them to work hard and remain with their employers. Like many generations before them, medical coverage is the top benefit they expect to receive as employees.

Gen Zs also prefer to talk to their managers in person (versus email, for example), and they are very interested in connecting with a workplace mentor, which reinforces the notion of retaining tenured talent.

By clearly identifying the target candidate profile for open positions and understanding the evolving demographic of today’s talent pool, manufacturers can highlight their company’s strengths to pique interest and draw top employees.

Traci L. Fiatte is group president of Randstad Staffing.

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