How to recruit top manufacturing talent in a competitive market

By Dale Driedger.

We all know Manitoba is a manufacturing hub. With such a high number of manufacturers proportionate to our population, recruiting top talent in this industry is already competitive. And it’s about to get tougher.

According to Canada’s Urban Futures Institute, some 9.8 million Canadian baby boomers are approaching retirement. By 2020, the number of Canadians retiring each year will be 425,000. With their departures will be a drain in knowledge, experience, and leadership in our workforce. It will be near-impossible for companies to keep up with the amount of job openings compared to the number of retirees. Sure, schools are turning out lots of people in the skilled trades, but only time can produce the leaders with the experience needed to fill senior roles.​

What are Manitoba manufacturers to do? It’s not all doom and gloom. Companies that invest in succession planning will position themselves for success.

Every role has different hiring requirements. If you haven’t identified how long it would take to recruit for each role in your company, and then have planned accordingly, the results can be disastrous for a company’s productivity, profit, and morale.

On the one hand, if an employee retires or leaves your organization before you’ve made a successful hire, you’re caught. Yes, you’ve saved some money by paying one salary instead of two, but you’ve also lost the needed expertise to ensure the new hire’s success.

Add to this problem the other consequences of having a vacancy in a key position: The longer people are compensating for the extra workload of a vacancy, the more likely they are to get burnt out and unhealthy. Now you’re paying sick time on top of more overtime to the people left filling in.

With a drop in employee morale, comes a drop in productivity. Workers are tired and may be feeling pressure from home, missing family functions or obligations.

From the production standpoint, if both morale and productivity drop, it is bound to affect the bottom line. Deadlines are missed and your customers are unhappy, which could lead to client and profit loss in the long term.

Taking all these points into consideration, spending some time and money up-front in your succession planning is one of the smartest investments you could make in your company’s future. So, what are the steps you need to take to plan for upcoming recruitment needs?

First, look at your organization from top to bottom. Evaluate every position and job category. What is the seniority of the people in these roles? When are retirements expected? From there, you’ll be able to see what’s coming. Next, prioritize the top positions you need to start succession planning for. Finally, implement an operational plan to bring in people who can be mentored for supervisory, management, or senior management roles.

Identifying and designing a healthy organizational culture is also fundamental to your succession plan. In my experience, a quality workforce is productive, engaged, and believes in the company they are working for. These desired traits need to be continuously nurtured and demonstrated through the company culture. The trend is if you’re not willing to take care of your workforce, they will find another company that will.

Another mistake I’ve seen employers make is taking too long in the hiring stage. They go through the entire recruitment process, they do all the interviewing, and then they have people wait. According to the 2015 Global Recruiting Trends Report, it takes, on average, 27 days to make a new hire, but the best candidates are off the market in 10 days. Yes, a thorough recruiting process is important, but it’s all for naught if you lose your ideal candidate to another opportunity. What we have to remember is that people want to provide for their families and they can’t afford to wait. Even if they take your job offer over another, you may have damaged that relationship right off the bat with a poor impression.

Now, back to that strategic planning and getting it down to a science. Recruiting an engineer with an MBA is not going to take the same amount of time and resources as filling an opening on the production floor, and they definitely don’t have the same level of urgency. One could be 6-8 months and the other could be 3-4 weeks. You have to do that research to understand your structure for hiring, both on an individual basis and seeing the organization as a whole.

Chipping away every day trying to fill holes that keep appearing will never work. But you already know that. A partnership with a trusted recruitment firm can be an excellent resource for managing immediate and succession planning hiring for your company. Invite them into your manufacturing world and share your company goals. If they can see production schedules, they can help you evaluate every position. They can give you advice on the best and the toughest time to hire people, which will help you make adjustments, making your life easier when you do hit recruitment time.

I urge you to start the conversation around succession planning today. What might have worked three years ago no longer works today. Assuming that top employees will be willing and ready to come work in your company just when you need them could be a costly mistake. The reality is they are not waiting. Top talent is much more savvy in marketing themselves and many other companies are seeking them, too.

Dale Driedger is the president and co-founder of Pinnacle Staffing Solutions — Manitoba’s largest recruitment firm.