Aggressive recruitment, key retention strategies for the manufacturing workforce

It’s called a “rolling tsunami,” and labor watchers have been predicting it for over a year. Now it’s here, and the manufacturers and other employers are not ready.

Manufacturing employers at the annual NoCo Manufacturing Partnership show heard from employment professionals at one of the show’s professional development seminars Thursday at the Ranch Events Center in east Loveland. They were given advice on how to survive the tsunami – maybe not to stand on their surfboards but at least hang on to the board.

From left to right, Mohamad Abbasi, Kristen Moorsfield and Christine Haxton participate in a panel discussion on labor issues facing manufacturers. (BizWest / Ken Amundson / Courtesy Photo)

“Last year, more than half of American employees said they would look for a new job in 2021,” said Christine Haxton, founder of the Center for Sustainable Strategies and moderator of the Workforce Roundtable . She said dropout rates in 2020 were low due to the pandemic. “Now there is pent-up demand and it’s starting to happen,” she said.

Kristen Moorsfield, COO of Sparkfun Electronics Inc., a Niwot company of about 100 employees, said she wasn’t surprised people were changing jobs but was surprised at the scale.

“When you have a low revenue year (like 2020), you usually see these waves. Low year, then high year. The valley and the summit were significantly lower and now higher (respectively), ”she said. “People’s motivations for work have changed during the pandemic. Now people are leaving without necessarily having anything else to go to.

Mohamad Abbasi agrees. He is responsible for client development for the employee recruiting company Adecco and is assigned exclusively to Woodward Inc. (Nasdaq: WWD). “People who were doing their own thing outside the office and now are brought back to the office are rethinking where they want to work. The motivations have changed. “I have something else on my mind that I want to do,” he said.

Haxton said people “were becoming much less tolerant of the things they put up with (before the pandemic)”.

As companies have lost staff, they have become more aggressive in finding new staff. “Poaching is crazy,” Moorsfield said. She said employers offer double and triple wages to workers who defect and go to another company. “Can small and medium-sized manufacturers compete? May be.”

Haxton said she sees companies offering inflated titles, possibly before the individual is ready for the job.

“Money value and time value are the big things right now,” Abbasi said. He said older applicants want benefits that help them prepare for retirement. Younger candidates want to grow with the company and find a place where they can apply what they have learned in their previous jobs.

Abbasi said companies like Woodward are starting to compare their benefits against other companies, “because potential employees are making those comparisons as well.”

Retaining existing employees is one answer, and probably less expensive than recruiting new staff. Making the company a great place to work is essential.

“Businesses need a plan for people to grow, not just a ‘hope’ to grow. Hope is not a plan, ”Haxton said. “You have to catch them before they start to consider ‘having an affair,’ she said, comparing the employer / employee relationship to a marriage.

Moorsfield said small businesses with relatively flat management structures don’t have much vertical room for ambitious staff members. But they can receive cross-training so that they better understand how it works and see opportunities outside of their departments.

“I am a person of silver linings. One of the benefits (of the pandemic) has been that applicants know what they want. If I’m looking for a job in manufacturing, I know what’s going on with it. People have made their risk tolerance judgments, ”Moorsfield said.

She described Sparkfun’s core core value as ‘people first’, which in her case applies to managers and employees.

“What it really means is to present yourself every day as a good citizen, the best version of yourself every day. Now (managers) can hold their teams accountable for this standard if they expose it themselves. Most people don’t sit down and say “these are my values”. But you can see them. You can see if people are engaged or not.

She said it’s “incredibly important for retention when you have a functional team where people care about each other.”

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