6 Strategies for Competing in a Tight Labor Market
Manufacturers are tired of hearing about the shortage of skilled labor. They’re tired of hearing about the dwindling number of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) graduates. They’re tired of one-upping competitors at job fairs. It’s safe to say there’s a certain level of apathy, which is why many manufacturers have turned their full attention to the talent shortage and begun to attack it from different angles. In 2023, they’re building frameworks for the future — systems to compete and succeed in tightening labor markets.
The talent pool isn’t getting any bigger
How tight is the labor market for manufacturers? A recent study by the Manufacturing Institute and Colonial Life paints a grim picture.
In a survey a group of leading manufacturers, 93% of respondents had unfilled positions in their companies, even after increasing compensation and incentives. Adding health, dental, and vision insurance, as well as paid vacation and sick time, has helped some producers attract and retain workers, but there’s still a struggle for manufacturers to find the right talent, and it’s a situation showing few signs of improvement.
The manufacturing sector is averaging more than 800,000 open jobs every month. Organizations like the Manufacturing Institute have introduced initiatives like Creators Wanted and the 35×30 campaign to rebrand careers in manufacturing. But while many of these programs succeed at some level, they’re still falling short of bridging the gap between available jobs and qualified workers.
Six strategies for securing top talent
Attracting new talent — especially those with the right skillsets — has always been a challenge for manufacturers. Here’s how companies are working to secure the best possible workforce in these lean times:
- Offer or reevaluate Total Rewards. The most effective hiring solution for manufacturers is also the simplest — offer competitive compensation. That doesn’t just mean a great salary; it means all the benefits that come with it, from paid family leave to 401k contributions. More employees are worried about rising inflation. Guaranteeing annual raises to exceed the cost of living can help producers recruit and retain new talent at their organization.
- Offer opportunities for upskilling. Pay and benefits aren’t enough when it comes to retaining talent in the manufacturing field — employees are looking to advance. Manufacturers should create opportunities for upskilling their staff, ensuring that employees who already have a great skill set can grow and develop.
- Cross-train employees where possible. An agile workforce is one that can weather unique challenges and disruptions. Cross-training members of your team is always a good idea. When people wear multiple hats, they can not only move laterally within an organization to prevent burnout, but also grow with the company.
- Emphasize inclusive company culture. Today’s workforce cares about their workplace — they want to work in a pleasant, inclusive, and magnetic work environment. Manufacturers can support an inclusive company culture by reducing implicit bias in hiring, as well as strengthening the overall employee experience.
- Provide pathways for career advancement. From upskilling to cross-training, there are effective ways to ensure there are paths to advancement for workers on the factory floor. Manufacturing employees often like solving problems and working with their hands. Retain top talent by keeping the jobs interesting and providing opportunities for advancement.
- Offer internship/externship programs. Mentorship programs are a great way to foster the growth and development of young talent in the manufacturing space. By offering internship or externship programs, you can encourage your workforce to share their knowledge while helping younger talent succeed at the same time.
Identify, cultivate, empower, and retain
It takes much more than a warm, able body to successfully fill a manufacturing role. Producers need to hire the right talent and employ skilled people to stay competitive in a challenging economic climate.
It’s not enough for companies to rely on finding the right talent, or the proverbial needle-in-a-haystack candidate. It’s up to companies to develop talent. By investing in the workforce with upskilling, cross-training, advancement opportunities, mentorship, and more, manufacturers can create a company people love to work for — and one capable of retaining top talent.