Twenty years ago, the economy was in good shape, the manufacturing industry was booming, and the unemployment rate was closer to 5 percent than 10 percent. The same can’t be said now. And unfortunately, it doesn’t look like there are going to be any drastic changes in the near future. A major skilled labor shortage exists, and it is only going to get worse before it gets better. In particular, there is a severe lack of educational resources available for individuals who want to get involved in manufacturing. In many high schools, the shop classes have been eliminated from the curriculum. And Baby Boomers are retiring at a rate of over 10,000 per day — creating an even larger skills gap.
With the current state of manufacturing employment, employers are constantly looking for new ways to lure talent. Job boards, social media advertising, job aggregators and traditional employment agencies have all become staples in the human resources diet. Corporate recruiters and hiring managers use a variety of resources, but we still hear consistent complaints of dwindling sales teams and horror stories of machines sitting idle.
I have been entrenched in the employment industry since the economic meltdown of 2009 — specifically, manufacturing employment. There is indeed a skilled labor shortage and we need to be proactive about it. With that said, this problem should not be employers’ biggest concern. Their biggest concern should be hiring managers to onboard new talent. Just because your HR department or hiring manager shares jobs through many avenues does not necessarily mean that the position will get filled any faster.
Take a look at some general guidelines that I have compiled to fill your current vacancies:
- Once you have found a suitable candidate, make a job offer in a timely fashion. In the manufacturing world, the day a candidate becomes available, they are inundated by headhunters and job opportunities. By the time a resume gets to your desk, the job seeker will have on average two to three interviews lined up already. If that candidate does in fact make it to your interview and you feel they are viable, make a job offer in a timely fashion. If a job offer is not extended either on the spot or within 24 hours, you might as well consider the entire process a complete waste of company time and money.
- If you’re working with a recruiter, communication is key. Recruiters are essential during a skilled labor shortage. They will save you time and effort. They will often get to work on your job orders without any type of retainer or contingency agreement. This means that you do not have any out-of-pocket expenses until you hire their candidate, which often comes with a 90-day guarantee of employment. When working with a recruiter, don’t be fooled into thinking that just because you have a signed agreement they will not also work for a direct competitor. For this reason, it is essential that you give your recruiter prompt feedback. In addition, many recruiters will multi-market candidates, so once a candidate is presented to you, know that you are working against the clock.
- Try utilizing the niche job boards first. We’ve all been there: filtering through thousands of resumes, some qualified while the majority are not. This is very common with the monster-sized job boards. Once you post a position, your job becomes diluted and mixed with every industry out there. It’s best to go with a niche job board first because the majority of candidates coming to those websites are from your industry. It doesn’t matter if you’re a legal firm or involved in retail. Doesn’t it makes sense to post a position on lawjobs.com if you’re seeking an attorney? Just remember — bigger does not always mean better.
- Consider ambition over experience. Obviously, during a skilled labor shortage there are far fewer “plug and play” candidates on the market. If it isn’t absolutely necessary to have a specific skill set, consider an applicant’s ambition to learn over their past experiences. As I mentioned previously, there are very limited educational resources for people who want to get involved in the skilled trades. Consider an on-site training program or upgrade training at your facility. This is a win-win for all involved because the employee advances their skills and you can justify a lower initial offer. You can then increase their wages contingent upon completion of your program. This gives you the ability to mold an employee to fit the exact criteria you were originally seeking.
Looking to hire today is more like playing a chess game than fishing from a stocked pond. Candidates are being shuffled around from point A to point B and being removed at a rapid rate. Dragging your feet in the employment process is a costly mistake that both you and your company cannot afford. Each day that your machines run idle, production will take a major hit. Fewer products means fewer sales; fewer sales leads to company demise; and company demise means you’re out of a job. So let’s make things happen.