Today’s manufacturing industry is grappling with one of the most difficult hiring periods in its history. In 2018, the Manufacturing Institute estimated that as many as 2.4 million factory jobs could remain unfulfilled through 2028 due to a tight labor market and lack of skilled employees. Today, only about half of manufacturing CFOs are confident in their companies’ ability to build skills for the future.
More recent difficulties are due in part to economic disruptions caused by COVID-19. But HR professionals have struggled for years to make modern manufacturing jobs compelling career opportunities for modern workers, many of whom have been groomed from a young age to believe college-oriented careers were their only pathways to success.
Many young workers simply aren’t looking for jobs in manufacturing industries. That’s why HR leaders must create a more attractive environment for talented new hires, prioritizing skills and value-added activities that align with workers’ values and career ambitions. In most cases, this starts with some cultural changes within the organization, but it also includes improving job descriptions for new hires.
What modern job seekers want in manufacturing roles
By 2020, the first of millions of baby boomers had already begun retiring from their longstanding manufacturing roles. At the same time, business leaders have been slow to acknowledge the serious image problem their industry has with younger workers.
Many younger workers see manufacturing as an industry that is often dangerous, low paying, and technologically behind. This puts HR leaders in the unusual position of being a “public relations agency for their industry,” as SHRM describes it.
In practice, HR leaders must not only recruit for individual roles, but the industry as a whole. Fortunately, the two go hand in hand. To be successful, a job description must help candidates determine if they will be happy and successful in the roles it describes, and it needs to attract the right candidates for that role, regardless of the industry’s image.
But what do happiness and success look like for future manufacturing employees? Grasping this will be essential to attracting underrepresented populations to the industry, such as women, veterans, and younger workers in general. Here’s a closer look at four priorities common among the emerging workforce:
- Offer competitive benefits. Manufacturing is more pay- and benefits-driven than other industries, since pay is typically low and benefits are less common. Randstad found that in Canada, only 40% of manufacturing workers have access to vacation benefits, for example. Workers frequently change jobs even for modest pay industries. Offering pay and benefits even slightly more attractive than competitors can go a long way.
- Emphasize job security. Low-income workers are more likely to live paycheck to paycheck, so job loss is particularly damaging. They may feel like they have fewer options than highly educated workers as well. As a result, manufacturing workers are more likely to prioritize long-term relationships with employers, and seek out jobs that guarantee longevity and security upfront.
- Provide a clear pathway to professional development and growth. Manufacturing employees are more likely to prioritize career advancement opportunities than other workers — 33% chose ‘advancing their career’ as a top driving factor when looking for work compared to other options. Make sure applicants can visualize these opportunities during the application process.
Why is improving job descriptions so important in manufacturing?
In 2019, the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) described a job description as “the currency of recruiting — you should never hire without one.” But despite its importance, so many manufacturing HR professionals don’t have in place best practices for writing effective job descriptions.
We have produced a guide with practical, contextual advice you can use to write better job postings. Starting with a deeper understanding of modern workers, the guide will help you develop a successful approach to creating job descriptions — aligning the right candidates with the manufacturing role for which you are hiring, and with the future success of your organization. Here’s what’s covered:
- An overview of the challenges HR leaders in manufacturing face today
- An analysis of what motivates manufacturing job candidates
- Five techniques to improve manufacturing job descriptions
- A sample job description for a Machine Operator