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A quick guide to recruiting in the manufacturing industry

December 10, 2020
8 min read

As the global manufacturing industry evolves it faces new challenges, particularly in sourcing talent. While company leaders navigate trade regulations and push toward shorter production runs, the talent they need is in short supply.

Seasoned workers are aging out of the workforce and replacements are getting harder to find, which increases costs. Compound this with a growing need for hard-to-find roles like health and safety engineers, which take twice as long to source and hire as line jobs like assemblers and fabricators.

Companies need talent today. But they also need a plan to diversify their workforces for tomorrow. Employers will face a massive shortfall of labor if they can’t attract more young and female talent away from other industries.

Here’s a list of tips to boost your manufacturing recruiting.

Use career sites to build positive perceptions

Manufacturing recruiting is challenging because perceptions of the industry are something of a paradox. In the United States, there’s a considerable nostalgia for manufacturing as a profession. In fact, an overwhelming majority has a high opinion of manufacturing, seeing it as essential to economic prosperity and a high living standard. Three in four Americans think we should invest more in manufacturing.

The challenge is convincing people that manufacturing is both good for the country and right for them personally. Many don’t ever consider manufacturing as a career, primarily because they hold an image of manufacturing that’s outdated.

Employers that can tap into the people’s pride for homegrown manufacturing and connect it to a modern, compelling employer brand put themselves in an excellent position to recruit the quality, diverse workforce they need today and for years to come.

This means highlighting modern, cutting edge technologies, offering competitive compensation and benefits, having a strong company culture, taking pride in what you produce, supporting local communities, and putting safety first.

Done right, career sites can accomplish all this and more. They’re designed to excite, inform, and encourage applications.

Take Lynden, for example, a transportation company that saw a 97% increase in applications when they revamped their career portal with employee videos, ‘apply now’ buttons, and information on their Dock-to-Driver training program.

Here are a few ideas to make your career site all it can be:

  1. Feature employee testimonials. Pick high-performing individuals from across your organization, especially if they originally came from outside the industry. You can ask to interview them, video their responses, or have them write something up. What got them interested in manufacturing? Keep editing and prompts to a minimum, allowing them to speak in their own words.
  2. Show off the diversity of your organization. Manufacturers usually have deep ties with the area they’re located in. Feature pictures and videos of your employees at work, involved in team-building activities, or giving back to the community.
  3. Make it easier to find relevant roles. AI recruiting software can match job seekers to open roles based on criteria including skills, leadership, and aptitude. Better still, our job matching feature seeks to mitigate bias by looking beyond where someone went to school or how many years of experience they have.

Increase workforce diversity

Manufacturers have long struggled to diversify their workforces.

To give a sense of scale to the situation, men make up 53% of the overall workforce in the United States, yet they represent 71% of the manufacturing workforce. That workforce is also aging quickly. Large pockets of retirees will be difficult to replace without recruiting groups typically underrepresented on the manufacturing floor – including an increased focus on younger workers, women, and minorities.

Sourcing is key to improving diverse hires. Hiding names and photos on resumes is a great way to prevent bias if you’re already attracting a diverse candidate pool. If not, you’re not addressing the root of the problem.

Manufacturing jobs are changing too. As automation increasingly becomes a part of manufacturing processes, employers require a different set of technical, in-demand skills. Employees with those skills may not look at manufacturers when considering the next step in their careers; it’s up to employers to make job seekers aware of this option and champion the industry as somewhere they should want to work.

Invest in employee referrals

Recruitment teams don’t recruit great people by working alone. They recruit great people by leveraging the employees they already have.

Employee referral technologies are relatively inexpensive to operate and result in consistently high performers who typically stick with your company longer. In fact, about one-third of companies say employee referrals are their top source of quality candidates.

However, referral programs can fall by the wayside. If this is the case, recruitment teams need to stop and assess the problem:

Common challenges with employee referral programs Potential solutions
Referrals aren’t top of mind for your employees; they’re focused on their typical day-to-day duties Work with department heads and team leads to schedule time for referral conversations periodically
Employees refer candidates outside existing, formal channels Ensure your referral process is easy and all employees understand how it works; pre-generated social posts make it easier for employees to share openings by giving them ideas to work with
Referrals are inconsistent across teams and fluctuate over time; participation is sporadic and hard to predict Employees may not be aware of openings outside their immediate team or business unit; communicate open roles across the business regularly and incentivize participation
Employees consistently report not knowing who to refer; of the candidates they do, few are hired Pull employees’ networks into a collective database (with their permission, of course); use matching technology to pair potential candidates with current and projected openings

Avoid downtime by building robust talent pipelines

New safety precautions, increased demand, strained supply lines and logistics – 2020 threw manufacturers more than a few curveballs. If all this wasn’t enough, not having the talent you need to keep things running is massively expensive.

Having the right employees with the combination of the right skills, credentials, experience, and certifications is essential to keep production on schedule and avoid wasteful downtime. Missing just one key player from the floor during a shift can cause major inefficiencies. According to IBM, a single hour of downtime can cost manufacturers upward of $100,000.

This is where a strong candidate relationship management (CRM) system drives ROI. CRMs help keep candidates engaged over time, making it quicker, easier, and cheaper to source qualified talent.

Here’s an easy model to building and engaging healthy talent pipelines:

  1. Grow your pipelines of manufacturing talent by encouraging job seekers to opt into communications on your career site, LinkedIn page, and other digital properties. You never know what niche skills or certifications you’re going to need in the future, so add silver-medalist candidates and other quality talent to your pipelines as well.
  2. Organize your pipelines based on your hiring needs. Common categories include some combination of skills, experience level, and location.
  3. Keep your pipelines engaged. Send weekly digest emails to highlight job openings related to talent pools a candidate has subscribed to, based on their interests. Job search advice, company news, and fun updates all work great.

[For more on building strong talent pools, see The definitive guide to building your pipeline.]

Remove the stress from job offers

A serious job seeker is likely juggling multiple job opportunities from various manufacturing employers, each with their own timeline. That’s stressful for candidates and employers alike.

As an employer, your goal is, of course, to lock down candidates as quickly as possible. This is where automating the job offer process comes in handy – it streamlines the process, cuts through red tape, and makes negotiations easier.

The result? You’ll trim days off your process and beat the competition to the punch.

Onboard new manufacturing employees efficiently

Let’s say you found your next all-star hires. They’re great fits and eager to get started. Digital onboarding builds on their excitement by reinforcing the culture and mission that brought them to you in the first place. The result is engaged employees who are bought in and set up for success. This leads to longer tenures and happier, healthier employees.

That’s great for candidates. But what about you? When onboarding is efficient, organizations save money by reducing time spent on administrative tasks.

[Looking for more onboarding tips and tricks? See How successful onboarding kickstarts employee engagement and retention.]

Choose a dedicated applicant tracking system

Manufacturing recruiters work in two different worlds. One with high-volume roles. The other with hyper-specialized positions where candidates are fewer. They need recruiting solutions capable of filling both.

To get the most out of your manufacturing recruiting, you need an applicant tracking system that can support high volume hiring, source niche talent, and move applicants with diverse skills, backgrounds, and credentials through the hiring process as quickly as possible.

Moving to the iCIMS Talent Cloud is easier than you might think, even for the largest, most complex manufacturing organizations.

Take UK-based TT Electronics, for example. Faced with a shortage of engineering candidates, TT Electronics chose iCIMS to help attract more talent with niche skillsets and streamline its recruiting process. They also ended their reliance on recruiting agencies, saving £170,000 per year as a result.

There’s also Samsonite, the global luggage company, which selected the iCIMS Talent Platform to power its recruitment strategy while maintaining a continuous data flow with ADP, its HCM provider.

Both of these companies discovered the power of an ATS purpose-built for their recruiting needs. Unlike HCMs, which give away ATS modules at no (or low) cost, iCIMS’ continually invests in and evolves its applicant tracking software. That’s crucial for talent leaders who are looking to develop their workforce years out into the future.

Learn more about focused applicant tracking. Download The Business Case for a Focused and Inclusive ATS.

Next steps

Looking for more information about manufacturing recruiting? Check out our manufacturing recruiting software. It’s got a quick-hit list of solutions. You can also submit to see a demo from there.

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Emily McMichael

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