In 2023, the manufacturing industry faced a complex hiring landscape marked by economic uncertainties, high capital costs, supply chain disruptions and a shortage of skilled labor. However, as indicators suggest a shift toward a healthier economy, businesses should adopt a deliberate and innovative strategy to attract and retain quality candidates in 2024.
The Federal Reserve projects a moderate U.S. GDP growth of 1.5% in 2024, with inflation trending steadily lower. There are positive signs for the manufacturing sector, too. U.S. factory production increased more than expected (0.4%), and the Institute for Supply Management’s measure of national factory activity rose to a 10-month high in September.
Deloitte predicts that the U.S. manufacturing industry will continue to experience significant investment and growth in 2024, while Control Engineering predicts a slower but positive 0.3% increase in global manufacturing output in 2024 and a gradual recovery of the global economy.
Addressing the Talent Gap
Skilled labor shortages remain a critical concern, as highlighted by a recent survey by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM). Nearly 75% of surveyed manufacturing executives say that their primary business challenge is attracting and retaining a quality workforce, and this trend is expected to continue in 2024. Businesses must adapt their talent acquisition and retention strategies to remain competitive and prepare for growth in 2024. Here are some ways to achieve this:
- Develop a Strategic Plan: Craft a comprehensive plan aligned with market dynamics, encompassing workforce requirements, necessary skill sets, and potential challenges.
- Streamline Hiring Processes: Simplify the application process and streamline interviews to ensure a swift and efficient talent acquisition process.
- Consider Innovative Incentives: Motivate employees with unique incentives like signing bonuses, profit-sharing and safety bonuses based on production and safety goals.
- Look at Diverse Candidate Pools: Go beyond traditional hiring pools, considering candidates without direct industry experience, including military personnel and those with non-traditional career paths.
- Flexibility is Key: Flexible scheduling, remote work opportunities, compressed work weeks, and the opportunity to swap or split shifts are a few ways to offer flexibility within your organization.
- Establish External Talent Pipelines: Collaborate with trade schools, community and technical colleges, and community organizations to build talent pipelines and meet future talent needs.
- Upskill Existing Talent: Focus on upskilling employees through a blend of on-the-job training and formal education to address the shortage of qualified candidates.
- Consider Strategic Hiring Partners: Collaborate with professional recruiting companies specializing in surge hiring, new facility hiring, and technical recruitment.
- Plan for Sensible Hiring: Analyze workforce gaps and pre-qualify candidate pools to ensure readiness to make offers when the time is right.
Retaining talent is crucial, with a focus on improved work-life balance, a strong company culture, and increased engagement becoming increasingly important. Businesses must adapt to their workers’ needs to maintain a competitive edge regarding talent retention.
Strategic planning, streamlined processes, talent development, and effective retention strategies will position companies for success in 2024 and beyond. Proactive measures today will be key to attracting and retaining the skilled workforce needed for sustained growth in the evolving manufacturing landscape.
Collin Hannigan has worked at Orion Talent, a veteran-focused recruiting company, since 2015. During that time, he has directly assisted over 100 companies in successfully hiring Orion-referred candidates.
Hannigan has advised hundreds of transitioning veterans and hiring managers on interviewing and hiring best practices.