After supply chain disruptions, staggering labour shortages and shifting consumer demands due to COVID-19, many companies and employees in the manufacturing industry are ready to get back to normal. While the manufacturing workplace may never fully return to the way it was before the pandemic, there are signs that production levels are already starting to head back towards pre-pandemic levels.

In fact, the top production output countries in the world – China and the United States – have already topped 2019 production levels. Numerous other leading countries, including the UK, Canada and Australia are expected to match 2019 levels no later than Q4 2022. While this seems to be good news for the global manufacturing industry, some countries, including Argentina and South Africa, may not see pre-pandemic production levels until 2024 or 2025.

In 2018, Deloitte predicted a labour shortage in manufacturing of 2.5 million workers. With production levels already on the rise in many areas of the world, it's safe to assume that a labour shortage of this magnitude or higher is on the horizon for manufactures around the globe.

To ensure your company has the ability to source, attract and retain the top talent candidates it needs to move forward, now is the time to evaluate your hiring practices and make necessary adjustments to these strategies.

Our team at Randstad understands the transitions occurring in the manufacturing industry, including the skills shortage and increased workers’ expectations. To help you navigate through these changes and develop hiring practices that drive results, we have identified several critical steps your company should take to secure its ability to hire high-quality candidates in a post-pandemic job market.

reexamine your employer brand

Studies show that 72% of candidates research potential employers before even applying for a job. Thanks to social media and online review boards conducting this research is easier than ever. If you need more evidence of just how important your employer brand is, additional studies reveal that nearly half the candidates in the United States and the UK admit that they would not work for a company with a bad reputation. Unfortunately, manufacturing’s growing image problems also helps to exacerbate this issue for employers in the industry.

Without a strong employer brand, you literally cut your prospective recruitment efforts in half. This is especially true for manufacturers due to the numerous workers’ misconceptions about the industry. So, not only do you have to take steps to enhance your company’s unique employer brand, but you should also work towards improving the industry’s brand image as well.

Fortunately, there are things you can do right now to enhance your employer brand and attract quality candidates.

1. conduct an employer brand audit

It would be impossible to enhance your employer brand without first examining the current condition of your employer image. Conduct an employer brand audit to determine what your current and prospective employees think about your company as an employer. This audit will highlight your company’s strengths as well as shed light on some areas that need improvement. Most importantly, this critical data will ensure your company is moving in the right direction to rebuild its brand.

2. focus on employee engagement

Your engaged employees are the ones who are more likely to leave positive online reviews and share your social media posts. Focus on improving employee communication and developing employee recognition programs as well as promoting transparency throughout the company. The good news is that employee engagement comes with a variety of benefits, including:

  1. 70% improved production rates
  2. 78% higher safety records
  3. 70% lower turnover rates
  4. 44% greater profits

3. create a safe workplace environment

While workplaces around the globe are beginning to reopen at full capacity, workers' anxiety about a post-pandemic workplace is still high. In fact, according to a recent survey of more than 4,500 workers from five different countries, 100% have some level of anxiety about returning to work. You can help to alleviate some of this stress and boost your employer brand reputation simultaneously by prioritising health and safety in the workplace. Post-pandemic practices, such as safety training, social-distancing workstations, flexible scheduling and handwashing stations, can go a long way in boosting your employer brand image and letting your workers and prospective candidates know you care about their safety.

conduct a skills assessment

One quick look around the manufacturing plant will reveal just how much the industry has changed in the last five years alone. There’s no denying that automation and digital technology are here to stay with no end in sight. As this technology becomes more and more advanced, so will the need for advanced skills.

With the predicted 2 million shortage of skilled manufacturing workers on the horizon, now is the time for manufacturers to take action. You cannot wait for the need for skilled workers in your company to become imminent. Instead, start planning now to ensure you’re prepared to meet both current and future hiring needs as quickly as possible.

1. assess current and future skills needs

When conducting a skills assessment, it’s important to identify the skills your company needs right now as well as the types of skills your company is most likely to need in the future. This will ensure that you’re looking for candidates with the potential to grow with your business.  

Additionally, make sure you identify hard skills as well as soft skills, such as agility, communication, critical thinking and adaptability. It’s important to complete a skills assessment for multiple positions within the company, especially for those roles that are most difficult to fill.

2. update job descriptions

Once you have determined what types of skills your business needs for various roles within the company, take the time to update your job descriptions. When updating these job descriptions, think about them from the viewpoint of prospective candidates and make sure it clearly defines what the role is, what the company expectations are and what skill sets are necessary to be successful on the job. With accurate job descriptions at all levels within the company, you are more likely to source candidates that already have the required skills or are capable of gaining these skills through experience and on-the-job training.

3. make training part of the onboarding process

Now that you’ve identified the types of skills you want your workers to have, it will be easier to adapt your new hire training process to match these objectives. Be sure to include a structured training program in your onboarding process to ensure these new employees have the right skill sets for the role and can therefore be successful on the job.

identify optimal compensation package

According to our 2021 Randstad Employer Brand Research, salaries and benefits are the number one factor for employees seeking new job opportunities. Don’t make the mistake of offering lower-than-average salaries. Today’s savvy candidates know their worth and they’re willing to wait for the right job opportunities with the right salaries.

Without competitive salaries and benefits, your company will have a very difficult, if not impossible, time attracting skilled candidates, especially in today’s highly competitive job market. However, taking steps now to identify what the optimal salary offerings look like in your specific market can help you create the ideal compensation package that aligns with industry standards.

1. research industry standards

The combination of COVID-19, the skills shortage and a highly competitive job market has inched salaries up in a number of markets. If your company has not conducted any in-depth industry research in regards to salaries and wages since the pandemic, now is the time. If you prefer, Randstad can conduct this detailed industry research for you and help your company identify the precise optimal salary offerings for your specific market. Our innovative calculation process has actually helped companies save money, while still increasing salaries.

2. look for remote work opportunities

When the pandemic hit, employers, including many within the manufacturing industry, were forced to rely on remote work to maintain production levels. As the markets begin to open, these remote workers are in no hurry to head back into the workplace, at least not on a full-time basis. The fact is that many employees prefer working from home and they have now come to expect these types of working conditions.

While remote work may seem like an impossibility in manufacturing, there are certain positions, such as machine engineers and quality control roles, that can be done remotely. Start by examining each role to determine which tasks and duties can be transferred to remote work. Then be sure to invest in a remote monitoring system that would allow workers to obtain the real-time data they need from home.

3. understand workers’ needs

Today’s candidates are also taking a closer look at company benefits before accepting any job offer. It’s important that you offer a full compensation package that includes meaningful benefits. Keep in mind, however, that some workers’ needs have shifted since the pandemic. For example, health insurance has become more important than ever, especially in those working in countries without government-run healthcare. Paid time off and flexible scheduling are also important to employees, many of whom are still dealing with family issues, such as homeschooling and caring for elderly parents, despite the pandemic starting to subside. Take the time to evaluate your current employee’s needs to get a better understanding of what types of benefits are important to them.

build a talent pipeline

The “post-and-pray’ method is no longer enough to supply your workforce with the skilled employees it needs. Instead, it’s vital for companies to take proactive measures by building a talent pipeline that they can tap into, when needed. Being one step ahead of your hiring demands will enable you to source faster and attract higher-quality candidates.

Keep in mind that it takes time to build a meaningful talent pipeline that drives results. So, you want to start the process as soon as possible. Here are some tips to get you started.

1. develop a talent pipeline for multiple roles

Building an effective talent pipeline doesn’t mean that you simply create a pool of prospective candidates that have a broad range of skills your company may need. Instead, you want to build multiple talent pipelines for various roles within the company. These talent pools should consist of prospective candidates whose skills and qualifications match the criteria for specific job roles within the company. You definitely want to create a separate talent pipeline for those hard-to-fill positions.

2. actively seek passive candidates

Thanks to the growing skills gap, there are not enough active candidates in the job market to fill current roles. Manufacturers must dig deeper and start to focus on actively recruiting passive candidates as well. Sourcing strategies, such as employee referrals and social media marketing, can be very effective at attracting passive candidates. Remember that these prospective candidates are still working. While they may be willing to change jobs, they are not actively seeking new job opportunities. With this in mind, you want to take steps to simplify the initial application process for these passive candidates. Otherwise, you may have trouble enticing these workers to complete the process.

3. seek support from an HR partner

One of the biggest benefits of working with a professional recruitment company are that it gives you immediate access to a massive talent pool of pre screened candidates. Unlike some recruitment agencies, our team at Randstad takes the time to better understand our clients hiring needs, company goals and overall objectives. We connect with hiring managers and floor supervisors to fully understand the skill sets needed to be successful on the job. Once we gather this information, we use our innovative technology to build customised talent pipelines based on each company’s unique criteria.

leverage HR technology

Digital technology isn’t only effective at improving manufacturing processes, but it can also help with recruitment as well. When used correctly, this HR tech can be very effective at helping employers streamline the hiring process, improve candidate engagement and drive better results. There are several ways you can use this technology to improve hiring outcomes.

1. streamline the hiring process

If your company is struggling with a high application abandonment rate, it may be due to the fact that your application process is too long or cumbersome. Studies show that up to 60% of applicants quit in the middle of the process because it’s too long. HR technology can help to streamline the application process to make it easier to complete. For example, the right digital technology can ensure that the application process can be completed on a mobile device.

2. filter through applications

Most employers don’t have any trouble obtaining applications for open roles. In fact, just one open position could garner dozens or even hundreds of applications. Instead, the problem is finding candidates with the right skills. The reality is that employers simply don’t have the time to handle tedious tasks, such as conducting reference checks. Fortunately, HR technology, such as the Randstad Relevate tool that is designed to help employers make better talent decisions by automating and optimising the reference check process, can improve hiring outcomes.  

3. candidate engagement

Another great benefit of HR technology is the ability to improve candidate engagement throughout the recruitment process. Once set up correctly, this technology can instantly send out reminder emails to applicants or allow prospective candidates to schedule interviews online. In addition, technology, such as the Modern Hire on-demand automated interviewing scoring tool can help to streamline the hiring process and deliver improved hiring outcomes. Not only can these capabilities improve the candidate experience, but it can enhance your employer brand and entice candidates to accept job offers.

If you’re looking for more tips for hiring skilled workers in the manufacturing industry, download our hiring checklist today.

about the author
sanjay shetty
sanjay shetty

sanjay shetty

head, search & selection & strategic accounts

sanjay shetty is a human resource or "Talent Specialist" with more than 21 years of experience of hiring across all industries and levels and managing relationships with companies across India