Wouldn’t it be great if when you needed to hire some employees, you put an advertisement in the paper and 100 qualified candidates lined up outside your front door? Well here on planet Earth, in 2015, it doesn’t happen quite like that.
Most manufacturing companies — especially gear manufacturers — are struggling to hire quality people to staff their shops. Why is this? It’s the unfortunate result of a process that has been flawed for many years.
First, many large companies that once served as a training ground for machinists, who later went on to smaller shops, have either been acquired or are no longer in business.
Secondly, working in manufacturing has unjustifiably earned a poor reputation among the current generation of prospective employees. This is true despite the fact that most of the dark, dirty “dungeon” environments are things of the past. It’s true despite the fact that many of these prospects have family legacies of working in manufacturing. And finally, this reputation exists despite the fact that seeking a college degree provides little assurance of finding a higher-paying job outside of manufacturing.
Third, many companies are not inclined to put any money into training employees for fear of losing them to other shops. Clearly, this is not a great idea since it’s doubtful that these employers want a factory full of people who have no clue about what they should be doing.
Fourth, shops are looking for the perfect employee. They want to hire someone who possesses both a broad general skill set and specialized experience on the equipment they have on the shop floor — down to the model number. Unfortunately, these people are already working elsewhere and are unlikely to walk through the front door.
Lastly, many companies believe that the prevailing work ethic of millennials has declined and that they aren’t serious about working in a shop.
So how do you combat this negative environment? Here are some suggestions:
• You must review your compensation package and make sure it is competitive. I’m not saying that you’ve got to offer the highest pay in the city, but you must make sure it isn’t the lowest either. Other incnetives could include: zero-cost uniforms, pension/profit-sharing/401(k) programs, health/dental/vision care, company functions, and paid vacation, among other benefits. You don’t have to be the best in every category, but if you expect to attract the best, you’ve got to offer a benefits package that competes with those offered by similar companies.
• Your job descriptions should be updated to reflect the actual jobs that are being done by your current employees. These can then be used to search for new employees.
• Review your process for training and advancing your employees. No one wants to be stuck in a dead-end job with no possibility for increasing their skills and value to the company. This training can be an ongoing in-house program or one such as those offered by the AGMA, Gleason, or other industry-specific companies that can help give your employees exposure to the best training and current knowledge out there.
• Get involved. By this I mean seek out your local technical schools, high schools, and community colleges that have manufacturing training programs. Participate on their advisory boards and make sure their curriculums are providing good basic understanding and training in manufacturing. By being involved, you may be able to get your company some good prospects when they graduate.
You can also get involved in your state’s governmental, educational, and manufacturing partnerships that are popping up all over the country to promote additional participation in manufacturing by students of all levels since there is a clear need for more workers
There can also be apprenticeship programs in your community that can be great sources of prospects. You’ll need to participate, though, if you want access to these prospects.
• Think outside the box. I’ve been reading lately that companies are not necessarily hiring based primarily on skill level. If you do, you may be waiting a long time for those that meet your exact skill requirements. I’ve heard that many companies are using outside HR resources to filter the applicants based on attitude, aptitude, and other company-defined criteria that they believe will contribute to the ultimate success of a employee. They take these results and hire prospects and train them accordingly. While it is a little more intensive and costly, it results in employees that want to come to work and succeed.
Gear companies are no different than their general manufacturing brethren and must compete with them for employees. The skill sets required for gear manufacturing are specific and will likely need to be trained, not hired, in. While it’s not an easy task, it can alleviate the frustration of finding skilled employees to run your equipment.
Hiring good employees can make or break your shop. Think long and hard about the criteria and process you will use to get the people that you need and count on. Give it some thought, and I’m sure you’ll come up with a process that gets you the employees you need.