There has been a lot of press in recent years about the shortage of skilled labor in manufacturing.
The employees you need can’t be created overnight, but there is one way your company can fight the challenge – recruit wisely and then retain your people.
In some fields, applications for open positions are so overwhelming that recruiters focus on narrowly tailoring position requirements to screen out most applicants.
In seeking production workers, the opposite is true. Widen the net and then apply a process to narrow the field. Relationships with local high schools, colleges, technical schools and work-ready programs are key. Visibility in the community will ensure potential workers are aware of the opportunities you offer.
Some companies are finding success by setting a minimum bar of high school education or GED and then putting potential employees through aptitude tests. Rather than relying only on work history or references, these tests reveal whether a person is suited to the task at hand.
One such tool is the AcuMax Index. This online survey sorts workers by what AcuMax calls wiring: namely character, disposition and temperament. Like other personality tests, AcuMax asserts that to thrive, people must perform work in an environment that brings out their strengths rather than fights them. The survey seeks to identify preferences in independent thought versus teamwork, communication style, decision making and work environment.
People who are desperate for work might attempt to shoehorn themselves into the wrong fit. But it won’t work long term. Think about a shy sales person or a non-detail-oriented machine operator.
Other companies are taking a proactive approach to recruitment by offering training programs in house. This can work especially well in areas where population is low and other educational opportunities are few.
Many companies also have trouble finding experienced people willing to relocate to rural areas. These training programs can cover the basics or be as in-depth as welding and machinists. After training, the company offers pay and positions otherwise not available to local residents, thus creating loyalty.
Once you have a cadre of trained workers performing jobs suited to their personalities, how do you keep them? Many employers think pay is the primary factor in keeping people. That is not necessarily true. Study after study has found that employees value the following aspects of the workplace:
Work environment – The idea of a company as a family is a good metaphor. Under the best conditions, workers feel supported, nurtured and recognized. Work environment is created at the top. A culture and values that are demonstrated by management and cultivated throughout all levels is critical.
A perennial complaint by employees is lack of communication from management. An us versus them mentality and one-way communication (upward) creates uncertainty and gives rise to rumors. It also fosters the tendency for employees to look out for their own interests – not necessarily yours.
Opportunities for advancement – This one can be a challenge for small companies that lack layers of responsibililty. However, offering workers on-the-job training and professional development can keep them engaged and happy.
On the flip side, keeping your employees’ skills competitve will benefit you in a rapidly changing environment. Even within the same job, productivity, decision-making and sophistication can be enhanced.
Compensation: More than money – Many companies fall into the annual raise trap which gives little wiggle room. Many times these raises aren’t tied to performance, so high and low performers are rewarded the same.
Flexibility in compensation that includes time off, benefits packages, child or elder care, and bonuses can help each employee design their own reward system. This innovative approach can help create long-term employee committment.