Attracting Employees to the Manufacturing Workforce


Recruiting and hiring manufacturing workers is more difficult than ever in today’s economic climate.

Not only are companies competing with other manufacturers, they’re competing with other industries also seeking new employees.

CBIA/Marcum 2019 Survey of Connecticut Businesses, Connecticut manufacturing jobs by congressional district

This reality is compounded by the fact that manufacturing jobs are increasingly requiring potential candidates to possess a qualified skill set.

The skills needed can be somewhat offset by existing workers who can share valuable job knowledge and processes with incoming workers.

But the clock is ticking as many older workers will be retiring in droves over the next several years, making it imperative to tap into the accumulated experience of those retiring workers.

Look Beyond Millennials

Millennials are generally defined as people born between 1981 and 1997, with the oldest approaching 40.

The focus of manufacturers and businesses in other industries has primarily been on recruiting workers from the millennial generation.

It makes sense that employers seek out millennials, given their huge numbers.

The manufacturing workforce is more competitive than ever.

But it’s important to remember there’s still a wide swath of workers above 40 who can contribute to a manufacturing environment.

In fact, many of these post-millennial age workers are seeking employment with the same opportunities and benefits as their younger counterparts.

Making Manufacturing Attractive

Due to the surge in baby boomer retirements, the Manufacturing Institute estimates that as many as two million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled by 2025.

And unfortunately, many millennials and others don’t find manufacturing an attractive employment option.

But there’s hope.

A growing number of manufacturers are making strides in their efforts to change the perception of the industry to draw more workers of all ages to their ranks.

Evolving Perceptions

A prevailing misconception about manufacturing is that it involves tedious work, at low pay, in dirty conditions.

For the most part, nothing could be further from the truth.

To change this perception essentially requires a rebranding of the industry.

Cohesive and consistent messaging must convey that a manufacturing career provides you with:

  • Access to state-of-the-art, cutting-edge technology
  • A fulfilling and captivating work environment
  • Opportunities to learn and grow professionally
  • A secure, stable, financial future

With record-low unemployment in the U.S., workers can be more selective in the jobs they consider.

Applicants want you to show them why your company should be their employer of choice.

Successful Hiring Trends

Today’s employees want to grow as individuals and thrive in teams as part of a larger, nurturing culture, according to Ronni Zehavi, CEO of Hibob, an HR and benefits management software firm.

While this is certainly important to the millennial generation, it’s applicable to many job seekers of all ages.

To combat the skills gap, Jeff Berger, CEO of job search firm Talent, says companies will have to adjust their hiring strategies, recognizing that money might not be the biggest incentive for some people.

Industrial-organizational psychology practitioner and workplace expert Amy Cooper Hakim predicts “killer health insurance, unlimited vacation policies, and work-from-home part of the week perks may outweigh a bulky paycheck in the years to come.”

Tip the Scale

To remain competitive in an ever-changing workforce, manufacturers will need to adapt to encourage candidates to consider them for employment.

Steps include:

  • Establishing a company culture that reflects values important to today’s workers. This may include being socially and environmentally responsible, having team-building outings, flexible work hours, mentoring opportunities, and systematic progress reviews.
  • Conveying the use of advanced technology at your manufacturing facility, and using social media as a platform to communicate what differentiates your company from the competition and why manufacturing is a rewarding career choice. Demonstrate through online videos the positive ways that today’s shop floor has changed.
  • Creating a work atmosphere that offers a structure for personal advancement and growth. Encourage employees to share ideas and make suggestions that may help the company. Show that you value their contributions and provide frequent feedback and communication.
  • Promoting the importance of continuous education and job training. Let them know you provide learning opportunities in order to further develop their job skills. Don’t be afraid your people will leave if you invest in them. Because what happens if you don’t and they stay?

The manufacturing workforce is more competitive than ever and it looks to be that way for the foreseeable future.

If manufacturers can, collectively, position manufacturing as a career destination with valuable opportunities for personal growth and advancement, they will stand a fighting chance of securing their fair share of available workers.

For more information about workforce strategies for your business, contact CONNSTEP (800.266.6672)


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