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Manufacturers can find recruitment opportunities through and beyond the COVID-19 crisis, and here’s how

Apr 29, 2020

My, how a lot has changed these past months.

Near the end of February, unemployment was still hovering around 3.5%, and almost every manufacturer we spoke to had one thing in common: they needed people. Production people, primarily, but there were also hundreds of thousands of unfilled positions on sites like Indeed, LinkedIn and Zip Recruiter for both skilled and unskilled labor. 

As we drove by manufacturing plants, “We’re Hiring!” banners were out (some faded from being out so long). If you wanted a job in manufacturing, you could get it fairly easily, assuming you could pass a drug test.

Fast forward to today, and the unemployment estimates are around 15% and projected to average around that figure through the third quarter of 2020. For a little perspective, the U.S. economy added a total of over 22 million payroll jobs combined since November 2009. Compare that to the number of unemployment claims in just the past five weeks: over 26 million.  

While manufacturing is still struggling in certain sectors and the ripples through the supply chain will continue to be felt for the next several months, many manufacturers we talk to say they still need to add people.

Creative recruiting ideas for manufacturing: Tap into this pool of workers

Skilled workers like welders, electricians and many machinists will still be hard to find, but for those looking for entry-level workers, there’s no better time than now to explore a previously untapped pool: Leisure and hospitality workers (e.g., food service, hotels and entertainment). 

Take a look at this graph from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics:

Employment in total nonfarm over-the-month change, March 2020

Source: Analysts of the National Estimates Branch, Current Employment Statistics Survey, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Anything jump out at you? More people have lost their jobs in the leisure and hospitality industry than any other over the past two months — and it’s not even close. Quite frankly, many of these workers will reflect on this sudden change and realize that these types of jobs do not provide enough security for them or their families when downturns in the economy occur.

Granted, many workers in these fields work part-time in order to care for family members or to simply supplement household income, and it may be more difficult to recruit those people. However, for the full-time workers, there are many benefits to pursue a career in manufacturing:

  • More stable job through economic downturns
  • Better starting pay and benefits (including higher pay for overtime hours)
  • Paid vacations and holidays
  • More stable working hours, which is better for a family
  • More opportunity for growth as new skills are learned

Now, what can a manufacturing company do to take advantage of this untapped pool of workers? There are three major things to consider before going this route.

1. Train leaders and new workers

First, work very hard on your onboarding, training and standard work programs — including mentorships — where possible. The worst thing you can do would be to bring in a “green” employee and throw them right into production. These new employees know nothing about manufacturing environments, and your job will be to make them feel comfortable, safe and confident that they can and will learn the job.

You will need strong management and line leaders to make this successful. Provide your leaders with special training on how to manage people from other industries.

2. Tailor your recruiting to these workers

Now that your programs are in place, go recruit specifically for people from this industry. Make it visible that you know this isn’t what their experience is but that you will train them. Tout the benefits, stability and even a purpose that your company has for their products or for the community. Host open houses for displaced workers if possible. Use statistics to demonstrate what you can offer that their past jobs did not.

3. Overcommunicate

Last, be patient and overcommunicate. Provide regular feedback to these new employees, have regular communication meetings and challenge them to learn new skills. Once you build their confidence and excitement, you might find they’re the best employees you ever had!

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Author(s)

Joe Girard
Sr. Business Developer
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