Manufacturers must be willing to give to get the skilled workers they need

There’s been a shift within the realm of skilled manufacturing from an employer-driven hiring environment to one in which candidates have the leverage. This change can be attributed to a lack of available, quality workers with skills in precision machining, maintenance and welding, among others.

“There are many skilled workers retiring who have been in the industry for years and not enough candidates entering this line of work to replace them,” says Kevin Kramer, managing director at Alliance Technical Solutions.

“Some of the available candidates have gone through technical schooling, but employers want workers who have hands-on experience. Many employers want candidates to hit the ground running to shorten the ramp up time it takes to be at a high-level of productivity.”

This lack of qualified candidates has led to greater competition among manufacturers to find and attract top talent, even if it means poaching them from their current positions.

Smart Business spoke with Kramer about the strategies manufacturers are using to attract and retain the workers they need.

How are the conditions in the skilled manufacturing hiring environment affecting manufacturers?

The competition among manufacturers for candidates who can hit the ground running is high. That means it’s a candidate’s market. Skilled workers, who are currently employed, will be more diligent in their search for other job opportunities and will have many options. Where these workers land will be determined by what employers have to offer in terms of work environment, benefits, growth potential and pay, the latter of which is always one of the more important factors.

As more skilled workers retire and fewer are getting into the industry, the demand for skilled workers will only increase. Companies in the manufacturing industry are going to need to be more creative with their hiring strategies to find people to fill these positions.

What’s different about how skilled manufacturing companies are attracting talent today versus years past?

Many companies previously utilized hourly temp-to-hire workers to meet production demands. That means they’re only accessing workers who are unemployed, some 5 to 6 percent of the workforce. Utilizing that strategy leaves a sizeable pool of people — employed workers — who companies aren’t reaching with their hiring offers.

Companies now are doing more direct hire placements, which typically had only been a strategy to attract salaried employees. They’re working with staffing firms to reach skilled workers who have jobs, offering sign-on bonuses and paying for relocation expenses, which previously wasn’t a strategy with hourly positions.

How has retention factored in?

Retention is definitely key. For the more seasoned employees, companies are offering profit sharing and bonuses. More companies are conducting annual or semi-annual reviews to shorten the time between pay increase opportunities, which helps keep employees happy.

Counter offers are much more commonplace today as a retention strategy. In the past, companies just let workers walk. Now companies are willing to try just about anything to keep a person on-board.

What are manufacturers doing to ensure they have the talent to grow their businesses?

Smart manufacturing companies are being more open-minded with their hiring practices. They want to hire proven candidates, but are more open to hiring entry-level candidates they can groom through an apprenticeship. For example, a company may be looking for candidates with five essential skills. But if the candidates who are available at the time of need don’t have all the attributes, companies are working with them to develop those missing skills.

It’s not an employer’s market anymore. The days are gone when an employer would simply make a candidate an offer and they’d accept. Today’s manufacturers need to do more to get the talent they need. Companies should be open-minded with their hiring practices and more creative with their retention strategies. Otherwise, they’ll be left behind in the race for talent.

Insights Talent is brought to you by Alliance Solutions Group