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Talent Advisory Board: What Does the Talent Situation for Manufacturing Really Look Like?

Sept. 27, 2023
Manufacturing leaders share their perspective on hiring and retaining high-quality employees. (Part 1 of 2.)

The IndustryWeek Talent Advisory Board offers monthly advice on how its members got to where they are in the manufacturing world and their perspectives on issues facing the industry. 

If you have a question for the group, please send it to [email protected]

The IndustryWeek Talent Board question for September was: Several employment reports suggest that the labor market has cooled a bit in recent months, rebounding from the massive numbers of people voluntarily quitting jobs last year. What's your take on the quality and availability of talent on the market today?

Highlight the Value of a Manufacturing Career—Bill Good, Vice President Supply Chain, GE Appliances

Companies who are having the most success in securing talent remain focused on a multi-faceted approach to improve the employee value proposition. The desire for flexibility and an improved overall work environment have become key differentiators for job seekers with everything else being equal.  

It has never been more important for companies to highlight the opportunities of a manufacturing career and to partner externally on workforce development programs.

As a company, we are intensifying our efforts to retain existing talent, improve our training and development, nurture relationships with our existing workforce partners, expand into new talent pools and highlight career paths. For production associates, we are revamping our overall new hire experience. In today’s talent war, you cannot leave any stone unturned if you want to be successful. 

Work with Recruiters—Audrey Van de Castle, Director of Digital Transformation - Operations Excellence, Stanley Black & Decker Inc.

I have found that the quality of labor on the market is great, even with it cooling in recent months. I do also think it is all about how you promote your open roles and work with recruiters, too! You can’t expect to find a stellar fit for any role, if you don’t put in the work to ensure that you are getting a quality job description out there and working with recruiters who really know the industry and needs of your team.

Strength is Returning to Hiring, but Relocating Remains Costly—Tim Noble, President and Recruiter for Lean-Six Sigma-Industry 4.0-Operations, The Avery Point Group Inc.

As an executive recruiter, we have certainly seen that the hiring market has cooled considerably since last year and is far off the exceptionally strong talent market demand that took place for us in 2021 post-Covid. Year over year, hiring, by some industry reports, is down by almost 25%.  Our firm saw this trend starting back in the latter part of the fourth quarter of last year, which was driven by recession fears, continued high interest rates, and a fear of a Congressional impasse-driven government shutdown.  We saw many of our corporate clients taking the opportunity to downsize and streamline their corporate functions, putting off filling open roles and significantly slowing their pace of hiring. These are typical corporate moves you would see where uncertainty looms in the market.  Now that these market conditions have somewhat abated, we are seeing some strength return to the hiring trends, but they are still far off the pace from last year and from 2021.

Regardless of the market conditions, good talent is still hard to come by.  That situation may have eased somewhat, but some conditions in the market are further hindering candidate mobility and flexibility. Current high interest rates in the market have really put a damper on a candidate's willingness to relocate for a new role. Yes, they may be able to sell their home for a nice profit, but they would, in turn, be paying for a new home that has risen in significantly in price, too.  Couple that with having to secure a new loan at a much higher interest rate, many candidates, as a result, are opting instead to wait out career moves or location change considerations. This further constrains the talent market for good talent. 

Good Candidates Pick Companies with Good Culture—Becky Morgan, President, Fulcrum ConsultingWorks Inc.

The labor market has cooled in the last few months. When Covid-19 hit, many companies executed massive layoffs, if only for short periods, and certainly the physical environment changed. Coupled with working from home, many employees took time to evaluate how they were spending their lives.

Many chose to become self-employed, others decided to change careers, and most became open to the multiple possibilities they could then see. Quitting an unpleasant job, boss, company, or location was a low risk, high reward decision.

Now many consider their work lives improved, reducing the need to quit. Economic uncertainty and dysfunctional governments add to the perceived risk of quitting.

There are still plenty of excellent workers; most of them are simply less likely to be voluntarily unemployed or putting resumes on job sites desperately searching for a better opportunity. While open to listening to opportunity, they do not see themselves as “on the market.”

Trustworthy businesses with an employee-friendly culture are still attractive options to candidates. Companies that chose to gaslight candidates and delayed start dates for new hires find themselves of less interest to excellent candidates.  

About the Author

IW Talent Advisory Board

An expert panel of manufacturing leaders offering advice on how to advance your career.

Beginning a career in any industry is challenging, and many people early in their journeys in manufacturing need advice on how to advance and reach the next milestone. IndustryWeek’s Talent Advisory Board collects manufacturing leaders who rose through the ranks and are happy to share stories and advice on how they got to where they are now. This group includes senior-level people and young leaders who advanced quickly in their organizations. They work for large companies or run their own businesses, representing a wide swathe of careers within manufacturing. 

Every month, we ask the group a new question about their careers or life experiences. If you have a question for the group, please send it to IndustryWeek [email protected].

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