Bridging the gap

Chris Howe, operations director at industrial recruitment firm Gap Personnel, talks to TM about manufacturing’s strive for efficiency through utilising its workforce.

Manufacturers are striving to be more efficient than ever. How has Gap Personnel helped companies achieve this through its onsite managed solution?

Chris Howe, Gap Personnel
Chris Howe, operations director, Gap Personnel

The fact we’re based onsite allows us the opportunity to have a much better understanding of the customer’s business in the first instance. The expectations of me and my onsite team is making them part of the customer’s management team, being part of things like daily planning meetings and health and safety committees. Being heavily involved ensures an understanding of the mechanics of an operation. We also try to find people from the relevant industry sectors. We see it as vital to place a team onsite that has sector experience, as having managers who come from manufacturing backgrounds means they can talk the customer’s language.

Has the way companies go about employing their staff changed in the last few years?

We have to accept we need to recruit to a certain skillset, but I’ve found more and more that in lower skilled roles, it’s more about attitude towards the work. Around 70-80% of customers are talking to us more now about this side of our recruitment process and how we can attract the right people attitude wise. To determine this, we run assessment centres which can see how they can work as a team and interact with colleagues. We also offer online behavioural assessments which view everything from social skills to behaviour under pressure. These factors are becoming all the more important.

Are employers continuing to see the benefits of multi-skilling in order to deliver cost efficiency and productivity improvements?

Absolutely, as there are some genuinely niche skills in various areas of a manufacturing environment that people need to learn and understand. We work with a company of its forecast and planning and work in how we can effectively train and upskill workers throughout their employment with that customer. This ensures that when there are peaks and troughs, we have that transient skillset within our workforce to be able to move work around. When one line gets busy, we can offset and deploy people from one line to another, ensuring new people aren’t always being introduced. If a company doesn’t have certain skillsets right, then you can only rely on either people who haven’t been trained in that area or worst case scenario, somebody brand new to the recruitment process. Inevitably they won’t be as efficient as someone with onsite experience of the operation.

Your onsite solutions span across a range of manufacturing sectors. Where are you currently seeing strong recruitment activity?

Food manufacturing has always been a strong agency user within the market. More recently, there’s been a buck in the trend with the automotive industry taking an upturn coming out of the recession. There’s also been a requirement within high-end technology industries, which should continue to increase. With a big focus on ensuring the UK grows on its gross domestic output through manufacturing, confidence has increased across the board.