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How Manufacturers Can Build the Best Talent

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In 5 Big Trends Facing Manufacturing, my colleague Rebekah Kowalski, talked about the need for continual adaptation, particularly in how we make things. These trends have major talent implications that we at Manpower describe as the Skills Revolution. At Manpower, I oversee our MyPath program which was created to help our associates connect their experience with learning that will help them advance into in-demand pathways. As you can imagine, I am often asked, “Nimo, how should I prepare my workforce for the shift in skill requirements?” My starting point for this is that Manufacturing needs to become at least as good at building talent as they are at building their products and services – and that this is an ongoing journey vs. a destination.

Where to Start: Becoming an Employer of Choice.

Becoming a pro builder of talent begins with the right materials, and that means attracting the best talent...and keeping it! We all know who our competitors are that we need to beat – the ones who are out there in the marketplace with a world-class employer value proposition, attracting top talent and reaping the rewards. You too can be an employer of choice and attract workers with the skills and experience you require to help you leapfrog past your competitors.

Yes, there are a lot of variables to keep track of, but let’s start with the basics:

  • accessibility
  • competitiveness of total rewards (it’s not just salary)
  • a safe work environment.

No surprises here, but I am always amazed at how many clients we have worked with have not previously compared their performance with other companies competing for the same talent in the marketplace. This is one reason why we created our Workforce Success Index – to help our clients understand how competitive their environment is. Data from our Index shows that companies that do not perform well in these areas are starting from behind and any upskilling and career path planning could be a wasted effort. The bottom line here? Get the basics right.

Beyond that, it is important to understand how much more important connecting with people’s individual preferences has come to influence your status as an employer of choice. Our recent research about what workers want from their employers reveals that resoundingly workers want flexibility and balance – and this has become more marked since Covid took over our lives. In fact, 71% of workers want to prioritize time with their family in the future. And though a production environment does not take place remotely, 63% of workers say they want more flexible hours. Are you offering varied shift times and ability for workers to choose the schedule that works for their lifestyle? And if you can’t, are you making sure that you are upfront about what you DO offer so that you attract the talent that is intrigued by your unique environment? A key to doing that is, of course, the opportunity to upskill and build a career – which is where I am going next.

Where You Are Going: The Destination for Meaningful Careers

As we continue to see skills gaps in manufacturing. In fact, one study by Deloitte found that between 2018 and 2028, we’ll see an estimated 2.4 million positions go unfilled. This hasn’t gone away because of Covid – if anything it will become more marked as organizations that automate are adding new and different jobs at a higher rate than those who are not. And those jobs don’t look like those of the past. Instead, we see the emergence of a K-shaped, two-speed recovery with some industries and people bouncing back faster and better and others at risk of falling further behind. Growth roles include technicians (all kinds!) data analysts, process automation specialists, quality engineers, embedded systems engineers, logistics and warehouse support specialists, supply chain professionals, and many more.

When you put this all together, it becomes clear that a key strategy for Manufacturing going forward will be building talent from existing pools – there just isn’t enough of the exact match talent out there that we need to fill the open jobs. In my job, I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly as it relates to trying to build talent – after all, this has been a focus areas of Manpower’s since our inception in 1948 (though I haven’t been here quite that long!).

Here are some tips:

1. Programs that don’t work are employer-centric.

When your employees see ‘mandatory training’ it is code for “do it or else.” Without context for how it helps the individual, your employees are left to believe that the employer is the principle beneficiary.

Training that does not connect to where a person is at leaves individuals feeling like the bridge may be too long or dangerous to cross over – they may opt out or opt to go elsewhere if they don’t feel like they can succeed.

Similarly, the “bridge to nowhere” training is a non-starter – if all the training is for is to help me do my current job better, why would I play? I need to feel like I am going somewhere.

Training that requires a lot of discretionary time without recognition of my day-to-day challenges as a working parent or someone who may have multiple jobs feels like a ‘luxury’ – I’m likely to take a pass

2. Programs that do work put the learner and what they have to gain first and foremost.

A program to upskill talent is only as good as the value perceived by the learner. In other words, you need to demonstrate that this is an opportunity to invest in themselves. This drives engagement and motivation to upskill. A few points here:

In our MyPath program, we have learned how important it is to “market” a career opportunity to our talent in tandem with the learning opportunity. In many ways, HR has had to become more adept at marketing and nowhere is this more true than in upskilling and career pathways. This requires you to really know your audience and their aspirations, and lead with the WIIFM or “what’s in it for me.”

Clarity is key. Showing a linkage between the current job, the upskilling opportunity, and the next career objective (and showing how long it will take) can be a big unlock for talent. In our MyPath program, we show how career pathways can lead to a doubling or tripling of income, and then we break down how that happens. That takes it from the abstract to the pocket book and makes the “what’s in it for me” super clear.

Enroll the managers. Your employees see their managers as an important source of truth. Too many upskilling programs break down because the managers themselves don’t understand the benefit to their department, their team, or themselves personally. If they don’t understand it, they can’t explain it or lead it.

Make time to celebrate. Create a program that incorporates achievable, shorter milestones and add in a healthy amount of celebration time. Take that moment to recognize those individuals who are investing in learning and upskilling themselves and encourage managers to model their support for such an investment. In addition, shining a light on learners offers another opportunity for them to model and motivate their peers to do the same.

In the best cases, tying the individual upskilling pathways to the broad transformational journey of the organization helps each talent understand their role in helping the organization on their journey. This is the best of both worlds where talent understands that their investment in upskilling is also yours and will contribute to a healthy, growing company with opportunities for all – at Manpower, we call that Doing Well By Doing Good!

Who’s on the Journey with You

I love road trips. I love movies about road trips. And the best road trips have both a great soundtrack and great company. The same is true on your upskilling journey. You have staffing and workforce solutions partners that are an important part of your journey – getting the right talent to you at the right time. How invested are they in attracting, retaining, and growing talent to ensure they are providing you with the talent that will take you into your future? You need to make sure that they are at least as committed to you (or more) to upskill talent for the jobs of tomorrow.

This is why we created MyPath – to ensure that our associates have a long-term pathway for career success. That means our clients benefit from a talent pool that is on an upskilling journey that is tied to future, in-demand jobs. In particular, I am pleased that we offer a full suite of Advanced Manufacturing upskilling pathways. We also have combined our focus on creating a pipeline of skilled automation technician talent through our partnership with Rockwell Automation on the Academy of Advanced Manufacturing.

I will continue to share more expert guidance and insights on how to become the best builder of talent possible on our blog and in invite you to subscribe to our Manufacturing newsletter below.

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