Industry Market Trends

Recruiting and Filling Manufacturing Jobs Require New Tactics

Feb 19, 2014

Over the past two years, there has been a steady increase in the number of manufacturing jobs created in the United States. Whether it has been created from the nationwide "Buy Local" movement, the onshoring mentality, or President Barack Obama's initiative to create manufacturing institutes across the country, the number of U.S. manufacturing jobs is on the rise. These jobs, however, aren't your mom's and dad's manufacturing jobs, and many of them are left unfilled.

Gone are the days of manufacturing lines with manual processes overseen by several employees. Gone too are the days of a high school education being sufficient to secure and maintain one of these positions. Today's high-tech manufacturing jobs require employees to be computer savvy, able to multi-task, and able to transfer seamlessly between production processes.

Recruiters for these manufacturing jobs thus need to revamp their mentality and methods in attempting to fill these positions.

Rethink Your Talent Pool

In the good old days of manufacturing, recruiters would look to local high schools when going after new employees. If the graduates weren't attending college or joining the military, they were good candidates for manufacturing positions. Today, with industrial technology advancements as well as a shift to high-tech products being manufactured, a higher degree of education -- and in STEM, science, technology, engineering, math -- is required.

Community colleges, technical high schools, and vocational institutes are better facilities to look to when recruiting. If you don't already have an established relationship with one of these education fixtures, it is a good idea to cultivate one. By having this relationship, the institution can make you aware of upcoming graduates who can fulfill your employment needs.

In addition, you can work with the school to create classes or training programs tailored to your business' specific needs. This collaboration will enable you to have an ongoing pipeline of potential qualified job candidates.

Get Competitive Creatively

With a smaller talent pool, there is more competition for the best talent available. Most top talent will be drawn to higher salaries offered in the market, so evaluate your pay structures for these positions and adjust them if necessary. When doing this, keep in mind that you have competition from other companies, as well as the conditions of the local economy.

So if you look at your pay structures and realize you can't compete on salary, there are other strategies you can use to be competitive. Take a look at your other benefits. Can you update your benefits package to be more competitive?

Another area to look at is your corporate culture. In several employee surveys throughout 2013, workers cited company environment and culture as a reason for dissatisfaction with their jobs. Take a look at your facility. Is it clean and safe? Do you have an accessible and pleasant designated break room?

Next, many of today's generation of potential employees are interested in employers that are socially aware and responsible. Are you involved in your community? Are you philanthropic?

All of these non-salary areas can have an impact on a potential employee's impression of your company. In many cases, these variables can make a bigger impact on a potential employee's decision than salary alone to join your team.

Build and Strengthen Alliances

Whether it is reaching out to other local manufacturing companies, the local chamber of commerce, or a regional or national industry organization, you need to build your recruiting network. Other manufacturing companies may have an overflow of candidates that they can send to your company if they are aware of your requirements and job openings.

Local business organizations, too, can send potential candidates your way if they know about your requirements and openings. Many regional or national industry organizations maintain databases of potential candidates that members have access to as a registration or membership privilege.

Don't forget to reach back into your past and renew any relationships with previous employers, colleagues, or mentors. Reestablishing these relationships can give you a broader network of contacts for sourcing potential candidates.

Recruit and Promote Socially

Today's job-seekers are using social media to look for employment. If your company doesn't have a social media presence or isn't using it as a recruiting platform, you are missing out on reaching and engaging potential talent.

Manufacturing organizations should not only be posting positions online -- via job posting sites, the corporate website, and social media channels such as LinkedIn -- they should be promoting their workplace culture and company identity. If you have a virtual community via Facebook or Twitter, these are both channels you can use to get the word out. If your organization doesn't have a social media presence, it's time to begin creating one.

Use Your Current Workforce

Your current workforce is the best marketing tool for your organization. Why not use the networks of existing employees when looking to fill open positions? Ask your employees for assistance and offer them an incentive for bringing in qualified talent.

Your employees know the requirements for the positions and can pass on that information to qualified candidates. This will make the recruiter's job easier since the candidates are qualified and not just submitting resumes to posted job openings.

The manufacturing landscape has changed, so it is inevitable that the recruiting techniques need to change accordingly. The skill sets and expectations for manufacturing employees have become more specialized and technical. While there is a skilled talent shortage, there are qualified candidates out there; recruiters just need to be looking in the right places.

By having a great corporate environment, a larger professional network, strong corporate alliances, and a satisfied workforce, you will be likelier to attract and hire qualified manufacturing talent.

Top photo credit: Haas Automation Inc.

Since 1985, Michelle Benjamin, CEO and founder of Benjamin Enterprises and Pivot Partners, has provided a broad range of project management solutions to industries and government at all levels. Her clients have included corporate giants like Anheuser-Busch, Kohl's Distribution, Consolidated Edison, General Electric, Entergy, and United Parcel Service. Services can include strategic process enhancements, workforce optimization to increase productivity and employee capabilities, and operations improvements.

To reach Michelle Benjamin, contact her at or 800.677.2532.