Solution: Develop training partnerships

Brent Robertson, a partner in Fathom, creative consultants that work with manufacturers on "future design," stresses that marketing alone does not a successful recruiting plan make. The other piece of it is having “regular relationships” with schools in the area that are producing desirable candidates. “The companies we work with who are wildly successful at this are either sponsoring events or they’re adjunct faculty, or they’re invited in to do lectures,” he says. “They bring student groups to their operations to give them a sense of what it looks like to be in manufacturing today.”

In Denver, which has a shortage of skilled workers in aerospace manufacturing, Lockheed worked with Metro State University on curriculum for an Advanced Engineering Sciences Program. The program trains students for aerospace jobs in industrial design, engineering tech and computer science. Students work on projects with Lockheed engineers and participate in co-ops and internships there.

ScotForge, the Illinois open die and rolled ring forging manufacturer, courts MBA student-teams from Northern Illinois University to work on solutions for problems at its plant. The students get to experience how a manufacturing facility works and learn about possible manufacturing career opportunities, and ScotForge not only gets a university-led cross-functional team to solve its problems but also the chance to recruit talented young people for internships and eventually, jobs.

Dilemma: We tried recruiting through social media and didn’t see any payoff.

Solution: Try Glassdoor.

One of SageGlass’ go-to recruiting tools is the company review site Glassdoor, says Amy Behne, SageGlass’s human resources manager. Behne likes the transparency of the site—that potential recruits can hear what it’s like from people who actually work at the company. And the reviews have been good: the company has a 4.5 out of five rating, and the CEO, 97% approval.

“There are several people who read about us on Glassdoor, who weren’t really looking, saw us and they work for us today,” Behne says. The company’s Glassdoor page links to videos that give a sense of the product and what the company culture is like, and also includes the same branding as its website and streams the SageGlass Facebook and Twitter accounts. At monthly performance meetings, employees hear about the importance of the site and are invited to post reviews about working at SageGlass.

Dell also makes Glassdoor a priority. “We post content there; we respond to reviews,” says Jennifer Newbill, senior management, talent brand. Dell has customized its Glassdoor page (employers can do that for a fee) and responded to 400 reviews there. “It’s a really important part of our overall recruiting strategy.”

Dilemma: Millennials just don’t want to work for us. We’re a small company that makes widgets.

Solution: Do a better job of telling your story. 

Fathom’s Robertson says that organizations that are successful in millennial recruiting “talk about themselves—who they are and what they stand for—as well as what they make.

“And when I say, ‘mission and vision,’ I don’t mean the best product at the best price—all that B.S.,” he adds. “What if you brought this other story to bear: ‘We’re up to something bigger than just making this thing—we’re part of this company that comes together and celebrates.’”

That doesn’t mean being untruthful, but sharing more with the outside world about what working at the company is like—the teamwork, the day-to-day problem-solving, the company culture.

Willington, for instance, had been stuck on the fact that it makes “nuisance commodities,” including the serial number plates required on plumbing products and automobiles. Its new mission is more soul-stirring: “building for the future” and providing “some of the biggest companies in the aerospace, automotive and defense industries with the durable labeling solutions that put critical information where it’s needed for as long as it needs to last.”

Team members get starring roles in photos on the site and bios sharing their contributions to the company and their hobbies. “Some were like, ‘Oh my God, I don’t want to do that,’” says Greene, who told them, “Come on, you need to promote yourself a little.”

One of the newer employees, however, couldn’t wait to see his picture up on the website as soon as his six-month tryout period was up and he earned his bona fides. “That’s our conversion factor—once you’re a new employee you get your picture on the website,” says Greene.

When the young man’s portrait didn’t go up right away, he asked where it was because he wanted to show his mom, brother and sister. “We got him up there,” says Greene. “It just goes to show you, when we have the right type of individual and they are engaged, they look forward to that type of opportunity. And he’s a millennial employee, this particular one. So they get pretty vested, and that’s a good thing.”