Labour Day Special: 6 Tips for Hiring and Retaining the Best Manufacturing Talent

Field Services, Industry News, Management - All industries

september 2022 paper calendar

Confronting Staffing Challenges in a Booming Industry

In spite of everything we’ve been through over the last couple of years, the manufacturing industry continues to grow and thrive. But one of the biggest pre-pandemic challenges we all face has also stuck around — hiring and retaining staff!

Whether it’s machine or CNC operators, welders, estimators, schedulers, engineers, or frankly any other role — competition has never been higher, retention has never been harder, and staffing as a whole has never been more complex. According to a study by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute, 9 out of 10 manufacturing executives agree that there’s a talent shortage in the industry.

Unemployment is near an all-time low, and employee choice has never been higher. That’s a difficult mix when you need to staff for one or two open roles, let alone if you are rapidly growing and need to add a shift.

These six tips are sourced from some of our best customers, who have been creative and open-minded in addressing this challenge over the last decade and more. They realized years ago that doing things the way they’d always been done was too precarious. They embraced change and confronted the problem head-on with innovative ideas to find the best people and keep them engaged and growing with their companies. Hopefully, these ideas can help you as well.

Tip 1: Get Your Jobs Out There

This won’t be news to you, but I’ll say it anyway — people looking for jobs aren’t looking at your website. A few are, sure, but not enough for you to consistently find the absolute best people for your open roles.

Jobseekers use dozens of digital and physical resources to find jobs, from major online job engines to hyper-local job boards. Know what the biggest ones being used in your area are, and make sure you are posting your open positions there.

Encourage your best employees to be your best promoters. Start incentive-based referral programs to reward your team members for introducing you to great candidates that you hire. These programs help build loyalty with both the existing employee and the new hire, and they help build community among your team.

Tip 2: Hire Trainable, Teachable People

In tight job markets, when there is already a premium on finding good, experienced staff, one great way to be creative is to hire staff you can train and upskill them into the team you need (more on the realities of this approach in tip 3!). This doesn’t mean you can hire absolute rubes, but you can focus more on cultural fit with your team, work ethic, and potential to learn and grow.

This can take the shape of short cycle training programs that might last a couple of weeks up to a few months, all the way to apprenticeships of a year or longer.

The other advantage of hiring trainable staff, and investing in this type of work culture, is that you set your company up to take advantage of cross-training your workforce. This allows staff to move around within your team when they get bored, instead of moving to another company.

Tip 3: Get on Board With Training

Many employers balk at the cost and risk when it comes to training. The idea being: What if I spend all that time and money training someone, and they just walk out the door for another job a year later? The usual answer is: what if you don’t train them, and they stay working for you? It makes for a funny line, but the true answer actually goes a lot deeper (and there is no shortage of data to back this up).

Well-trained people are:

  1. Much more likely to stay three years or longer, meaning you avoid replacement costs and the related slowdowns;
  2. Much more likely to add value to your organization long term;
  3. Much more likely to be promoted and help train future team members; and
  4. Much safer than untrained staff, and every dollar you invest in training comes back to you.

The reverse is true as well: untrained employees work slower, make mistakes, cause accidents, and just simply produce lower-quality work.

Tip 4: Second Chances Can Change the Game

Hire people, don’t hire histories. Many manufacturers have gotten great value from veteran retraining programs — often connecting them with highly-trained, motivated, and team-oriented people who can start helping immediately. Far fewer manufacturers are taking advantage of ex-offender staffing schemes. These programs not only have a public benefit, assisting this group in reintegrating and rebuilding their lives, but they also have massive benefitsfor manufacturers.

According to Samantha McLaren at LinkedIn, “Ex-offenders tend to be engaged and productive, with a strong work ethic. They’re typically extremely loyal to the company that gives them their second chance, staying in the job longer.”

Many ex-offenders developed manufacturing skills before, or even during, incarceration. Because of the stigma, many find it hard to utilize these skills post-release. Taking a well-considered chance on ex-offenders can pay off in many ways, inside and outside the shop. Studies show that the sooner someone with a criminal record returns to reliable work, the less likely they are to be arrested again or become unhoused. In one study, recidivism among the whole population of ex-offenders was about 40%, but for ex-offenders who lasted six months in their new job, the rate of re-offending was zero.

Tip 5: Open Your Doors

Manufacturing Day, which is coming upon October 7, 2022, is a great day to open your doors to the public and generate some interest for people looking to work in manufacturing — but it is also the day every other manufacturer is likely considering doing the same. Opening your doors on Manufacturing day is a great place to start, but consider doing it more than one day a year. With some promotion and creativity, a unique open house can bring a big audience of potential new employees through your shop.

Partnering with high schools with strong industrial programs is another good way to broaden your future candidate pool. It won’t pay off immediately, but by connecting with young students in a positive way and planting seeds for your company, you increase the likelihood of hiring that person down the road.

Tip 6: Be Someone’s Greener Grass

It doesn’t matter if you are in Springfield, MO, Springfield, IL, or any of the other Springfields around the country; for someone, somewhere, it’s a greener pasture than where they are now. Figure out the most common starting points for people relocating to your area, and market your jobs on those local job boards. Encouraging relocation is a great way to expand your candidate pool and reinvigorate your hiring.

Media advertising in those regions can boost your customer base as well as your hiring profile. Don’t just limit yourself to job boards — billboards in some locations are surprisingly effective and efficient ways to connect with people looking for new horizons.


Happy Labor Day! We hope these tips give you some food for thought and can help you recruit good, new talent to your shop. I’d also encourage you to watch our webinar on How to Ramp up New Hires Quickly Using Your ERP System. In it, we share a number of tips and tricks forgetting new hires integrated with the rest of your team, and ready to work.

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