November 4, 2021

Overcoming labor woes

If you’ve been trying to hire people in manufacturing, construction, countertop fabrication, industrial, or just about any other industry you’re probably aware — it’s hard to hire! Economists say it’s a tight market, with difficulty finding workers.

What in the world is going on?

It’s not your imagination – it’s hard to hire

CNBC indicates, “The Conference Board’s latest Consumer Confidence Survey indicates that workers continue to believe they have the upper hand. Those saying jobs are ‘plentiful’ remain near 55%, while those saying jobs are hard to get is roughly 12%, a finding that has been consistent in recent months and remains near a record high. In Q1 2021, the percentage of people saying jobs are plentiful was roughly 25%.”

employment in manufacturing

Worse, many people are quitting

You may’ve seen the term: the “Great Resignation.” According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, 4 million Americans resigned in July 2021. That’s compared to 10 million job openings. Some employees were already considering a job change, but put their careers on pause during the pandemic, worried about the risks.

What may or may not surprise you is that the highest resignations are coming from the healthcare and high-tech sectors. In healthcare, nurses and doctors on the frontlines must be exhausted from the care provided during the pandemic or the risks to their personal safety. And in high-tech, Harvard Business Review (HBR) believes they’ve had increased demands due to the pandemic and are facing “burnout.”

But, it’s not just healthcare workers and high-tech employees resigning. Mid-career professionals are quitting more often than younger workers. Among the reasons people are leaving their current employment? They want …

  • Security and flexibility of working from home with varying hours, especially for workers who have children
  • A job that provides more of a purpose
  • Higher wages
  • Less work

Are unions making a comeback?

With the competition for workers getting fierce, unions are starting to spring up in areas that are unexpected – from logistics workers to delivery services to even museumsThe Guardian indicates more than half of workers will vote for a union. Although it’s hard to predict the future, ensuring good wages and safety will be common themes throughout most industries and their employees. Chances are good if your company saw profits, your employees want a bigger share of those earnings.

Labor-friendly politicians are even speaking out.

We’re in this situation for the long haul

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, really there’s a supply and demand problem. There are fewer people in the job market as the population ages. The Baby Boomers, the largest generation, will be mostly retired in 2030. The generations behind them won’t make up for the workforce shortfall.

Up until now, there have been market corrections (such as the Global Recession that started in 2008 and the COVID-19 pandemic) that have made it easier to ignore that fewer people are entering the job market than leaving. With the economy booming, it’s most noticeable.

So … what can you do?

If you’re a business that’s growing, it’s important to think about both retention and recruiting, probably in that order.

Retain good workers

It’s time to start thinking about what are you doing now to retain good workers.

  • Are you paying employees fairly, especially in your area? Consider doing a compensation analysis as well as looking at average rent prices for your city.
  • Are workers safe? Is there a chance COVID could spread in your facility? If so, maybe keep — no matter how we’re tired of it — masks. Consider bringing in safety experts to ensure you’re not overworking or causing problems among your workforce.
  • Are you giving opportunities for growth? Do you have training programs? Do they have on-the-job opportunities to learn? By helping employees in their careers, you’re building loyalty (and better workers).
  • Are you providing reasonable workloads? Burnout is real, and it goes beyond the high-tech and healthcare industries. Chances are good if employees are essential workers, they’ve carried a heavy load for longer than they should have one.
  • Are employees working on their terms … or yours? Can you afford to give them flex schedules? Can they work from home? Are they taking the vacation that’s due?
  • Do employees understand how they’re contributing to your company’s success? Sharing financial numbers is helpful, but help employees need to know what they are specifically doing to further the company.
  • Do employees feel appreciated? Money isn’t everything. (Although let’s face it – it’s a good start.) Public displays of recognition – lunches, emails, thank you letters, and just general praise are great ways to encourage employees to keep working hard and being productive.

Get data. One easy way to ensure employees are happy is to conduct an employee engagement survey. If you’re not sure how employees feel about your company — ask. Getting their feedback and communicating with them enables you to fix problems before they become untenable.

Doing these things will ensure you’re keeping your best employees and encourage them to tell their friends to work for your company. Your employees are your brand.

Recruit … creatively

Yes, LinkedIn, ZipRecruiter, Indeed, and more will provide ways for you to advertise open jobs, but there are other things you can do to get qualified people. It starts with understanding people these days have choices.

  • Use employee referral programs. Give employees rewards for recommending good people.
  • Add bells and whistles if you have the flexibility – additional vacation, flexible schedules, better benefits, work-from-home options, and more. If you don’t know where to start, ask employees.
  • Use recruiters. They handle many resumes at one time and can help you hone in the right person, as well as provide feedback about pay, vacation, and other options.
  • Go through discarded candidates, giving them another chance. Everyone has a bad day. And there may be people who turned in a resume months ago that may be a great fit for a new job opening.
  • Get your network involved. To get the best employees, communicate to your friends and family about the job position as well as who might be a perfect fit. Most jobs are won by word-of-mouth.
  • When candidates show up, treat them as honored guests. Getting water, a tour, a chance to settle in – it makes people feel welcome. Where would you rather be — at a house where everyone was happy to see you or one where they were indifferent to your existence?
  • Enable job seekers to see the passion in your employees. When people are well rested and excited, they share that enthusiasm, making your company seem like a great place to work.
  • Consider recruiting employees who left on good terms. Some employees are ready to move on, advancing their careers in ways — at the time — your company couldn’t.  If they’re a good cultural fit, bring them back onboard.
  • Leverage professional organizations and colleges. Talk with people at career fairs to get young people engaged.

The best way, always, to get good employees is to ensure you’re treating your current employees well. If you start there, recruiting will be a lot easier. It may be hard to close the gap on keeping good employees, but now is a good time to start. The labor force will continue to be tight for years to come, barring any unforeseen market corrections. And your business needs all the good people it can get.

Elevated can usually help

Our specialty is helping businesses like yours succeed. We provide manufacturing and construction supplies to improve quality while reducing cost and time. But we know the industry and may be able to assist in increasing your network. Contact us!

Tami Matthews
Author: Tami Matthews
Tami Matthews is the Director of Marketing at Elevated Industrial Solutions. She’s spent 20+ years in marketing, focusing on writing, public relations, digital marketing, and content marketing. Before coming to Elevated in December 2020, she worked for a number of high-tech companies. Writing is one of her favorite pastimes. In her spare time, she volunteers for a number of causes including the Kunsmiller Creative Arts Academy working on the PTO. She also hikes with her husband and begrudging daughter.
Related resources
& expert advice
  • Buying an air compressor – what you need to know
    June 2, 2020

    Buying an air compressor – what you need to know

    Buying an air compressor is complicated and requires some expert knowledge. Not everyone involved in the buying process is a facility or plan engi…
  • All about Milwaukee Tool
    December 28, 2020

    All about Milwaukee Tool

    Wisconsin is known for a lot of things – the Packers, “going up North” (for those not in Wisconsin that means vacationing), hockey, fishing, weari…
  • Countertop fabrication, finishing, and installing
    January 5, 2021

    Countertop fabrication, finishing, and installing

    If you’re in the countertop business as a construction contractor, countertop fabricator, or countertop installer, you’re…