Skilled Worker Shortage Threatens Manufacturers’ Productivity

Russell M. Angelo

American manufacturers are turning away lucrative business because they can’t attract or retain enough qualified workers. Productivity diminishes when there are not enough skilled employees, and the situation convinces – or forces – many employers to lower their hiring standards while simultaneously canceling profitable contracts.

The Jacksonville Business Journal, for example, recently reported that Atlantic Marine Holding Company in Florida has passed up millions of dollars worth of new business due to a lack of productivity based on too few employees. As alarming as that might sound, the incident is not an isolated one. Businesses across the manufacturing sector are experiencing significant shortages and rates of attrition that directly affect the bottom line. In fact, a recent survey by the Manufacturing Institute, the research arm of the Washington D.C. based National Association of Manufacturers, revealed that 90% of manufacturers report a moderate to severe shortage of qualified skilled production employees.

5 Proven Ways to Attract and Keep Quality Employees

To overcome this challenge, manufacturers need to take a vigorous and proactive approach.

Here are 5 ways to attract quality employees and retain those you have already trained:

o Use dynamic marketing techniques.

Posting a dry job description is no longer enough to attract good candidates. Don’t view hiring opportunities as mere job postings but instead approach them like an advertising campaign. Use the expertise and creativity of your marketing team and employ direct response writing techniques to improve your response rates.

o Offer job candidates a unique, exciting experience.

Differentiate yourself with recruiting orientation videos, testimonials from satisfied employees, opportunities for candidates to meet your CEO, or by making the interview process fun and interactive. After an interview, people should desperately want to get the job because of the culture you present to them.

o Tap into the growing pool of talent in the Hispanic population.

Companies are struggling to find enough bilingual workers to meet the demand of an increasing Hispanic customer base. Growing your Hispanic employee demographic may take a little work but will yield huge rewards. Begin by creating a bilingual recruiting staff, advertise appropriately, and develop alliances with local ESL (English as a Second Language) programs at colleges and universities.

o Remember the platinum rule: “Treat others the way they would like to be treated.”

Employee benefits don’t have to end with insurance. Your total benefits package should include a wide variety of both traditional and non-traditional vehicles for offering employees the kinds of benefits they will value and appreciate.

For example, free dry cleaning pickup or fitness center discounts can be negotiated by an employer and then passed along to grateful employees. Higher-end benefits might include on-site childcare or medical clinics. Whatever your strategy or budget, the goal of an employee benefits package should be improved morale, increased loyalty and attraction, and high marks for worker satisfaction.

o Institute a Wellness Program.

A NASA study revealed that employees who participate in an exercise program average a 12.5% increase in productivity. Healthy employees are happier, take fewer days off for illness, and are more focused and productive. And national statistics show that employers save three dollars for every dollar they invest in a Wellness Program. In other words, if you do not have a Wellness Program, you are not only losing good employees and productivity, but you are ignoring an investment with a proven 200 percent return.

Recent research conducted by the National Association of Manufacturers revealed that more than 30 percent of manufacturing companies in the United States have good jobs that remain unfilled due to a lack of qualified applicants. This should come as no surprise, as the Bureau of Labor and Statistics has reported similar trends affecting virtually every industry in the nation.

When MetLife conducted its 2007 national survey, employers were asked what they most hoped to achieve when offering benefits to workers. A strong majority of respondents cited “retaining employees” as their top priority, ranking it higher than cost savings. After all, it may cost money to provide attractive benefits, but the investment is only a fraction of what it costs to attract and train new workers.

The choice is yours – you can spend time and money to strategically ensure your success, or you can follow the status quo as your earnings, profitability, and future business dwindles – along with your qualified workforce and manufacturing productivity. As the labor shortage continues, buck the trend and attract top talent by initiating programs that not only counteract attrition, but also get your satisfied employees talking and recommending your company to their friends and colleagues.

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