Helping manufacturers win the fight for talent

Posted on 22 May 2018 by The Manufacturer

Fiona Anderson of valuingYOU, a member of Hennik Edge’s networked expert advisory team, explores solutions to the ever-increasing issue of attracting and retaining a skilled workforce.

More than 200 businesses have already registered to participate in the STEM Exchange.
EngineeringUK estimates that 265,000 skilled entrants are required annually to meet demand to 2024.

EngineeringUK estimates that 265,000 skilled entrants are required annually to meet demand to 2024. Join the queue – many other sectors are also seeking to attract and retain staff that manufacturing companies need to grow and thrive.

When it comes to recruitment, looking at best practice is an opportunity for you to learn from others. As Sir Eric Peacock, serial entrepreneur and philanthropist said, ‘Steal with pride, adapt with glee, pragmatically implement.’

Tap into talent – early

Take the case of KMF, Precision Sheet Metal and Engineering (The Manufacturer and National Apprenticeships Top 100 Employer), which in partnership with industry, education and sponsors, has developed award-winning approaches, working locally to raise aspirations and enhance career development.

Over four years, the KMF Young Engineer of the Year programme has reached 17,000 students, worked with 25 high schools and invested £550,000.

This year, to capture the imagination of young people and fire their enthusiasm towards careers in STEM-related subjects or apprenticeships, Year 10 students are challenged to design, build and race an electric kit car.

The scheme will culminate in a race day and an awards ceremony hosted by Jason Bradbury from The Gadget Show. At its state-of-the-art training centre for young and adult apprenticeships, KMF also offer weekly fair-train accredited work experience placements.

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Jenny Conlon KMF’s training & development manager, commented, “We work hard to nurture a skilled team of employees who embody our values from day one. We are passionate about providing each individual with opportunities to allow them to develop within our company.”

Visiting KMF, the apprentices’ energy, enthusiasm and confidence is evident. From welcoming guests to sharing their pride as they guide you through the factory, their learning is inspired by developing solutions for real problems within KMF.

This initiative helps the company meet its annual productivity objectives, while expanding the skills of their apprentices.

Be the employer of choice

The What Workers Want Report 2017 by Hays identifies that pay carries the greatest weight in decision-making to accept and remain in engineering jobs.

The What Workers Want Report 2017 by Hays

Struggling to compete on salary? Appeal to applicants’ hearts and emotional needs, tap into what is important in their life. Use your business mission, vision, brand, values and culture to excite and engage throughout your recruitment process. (Culture is the second-most important factor identified by Hays.)

Step into the shoes of potential employees. Explore your appeal to both their heart and head, their logical needs. What is in it for them if they work for you?

  • Look at competitors – they may be the largest or most successful local businesses, not necessarily manufacturers. What are they doing differently?
  • Ask employees what is unique about your business? Why do they choose to work for you? Why do they remain loyal and productive employees?
  • Refresh your online presence and adverts. Are you advertising a role – or how your business appeals to their heart and head? Where can you advertise to access a larger, more diverse talent pool? Use multimedia to share what your staff and customers say
  • Review your selection process – is it two-way? Applicants need an opportunity to experience your business and how it fits their needs. Include informal meetings and tours
  • When you leak talent, hold exit interviews to learn and take action.

Hays also identifies benefits as the fourth-most important factor in engineering. With societal trends towards both parents working, plus increasing care for parents, there is a growing need for flexibility at work.

“80% say this is the most important employee benefit for parents”, according to Katie McSweeney, head of Mumsnet Work. “The key is to empower your staff and upskill managers to help parents develop their solution to juggle work and home.

“They are more likely to go the extra mile and be more productive at work as a result. Where you have two or more families in your workplace, allow them to arrange how to cover shifts between themselves.”

Train and retain

Hays identify progression as the third-most important factor for attraction and retention. This does not always mean investment in classroom training.

Line of Sight - managing expectations and performance - valuingYOU

Introduce the Line of Sight: one-to-one time with each member of staff, every month, is invaluable.

  • Train managers to help staff understand business direction, what is expected of them and how their daily activities contribute to their team, work area and business success
  • Equip managers with coaching skills to explore individuals’ aspirations and to develop solutions for growth in personal and business-wide productivity
  • Encourage managers to seek feedback for their own improvement
  • Encourage staff to seek help; receive feedback to understand how they can be even better
  • Empower accountability for their work and their development.

Sir Eric upskills his staff and managers to give and receive feedback – ‘to tell the truth fast’.

Staff who feel valued are motivated and more productive. Investors in People identified this as key to gaining 21% in staff motivation. I witnessed a 47% increase in managing poor performance when I introduced this into an IT Department.

Challenge attitudes to diversity and inclusion

The business case for diversity and inclusion is clear. Baljit Kaur, diversity and inclusion specialist at Innate Consultancy highlights that a more diverse and inclusive organisation is an enabler to deliver better business results.

Research by Deloitte identifies an 80% improvement in business performance when levels of diversity and inclusion are high. Baljit asks: how much do leaders actually know about what constitutes a diverse and inclusive organisation?

Change starts at the top. What roles are your workforce employed to do? Walk round with a fresh pair of eyes: what will potential employees experience?

Rajkaran Singh Kharbanda, global forecasting and capacity planning manager, Siemens, proudly the first turbaned Sikh named in one of The Manufacturer Top 100 reports, states: “Engineering and manufacturing sectors continue to change the world we live in, but women and individuals from diverse backgrounds have not been attracted to these industries.

“Less than 10% of the current UK engineering workforce is female, and it has been proven that multiracial groups face an unconscious bias in their workplaces. Research shows that like-minded people have similar ideas and diverse teams are more innovative as they bring different ideas and fresh perspectives. It is critical for big and small organisations to embrace diversity and be open-minded to inclusion, as this will hold the key to developing a distinct competitive advantage.”

Raj recommends:

  • Break traditional thinking patterns – don’t disregard or ignore differences. Take time to explore differences and identify opportunities
  • Question – are assumptions based on stereotypes, not qualifications, experience, and facts?
  • Communicate openly – share knowledge, ideas, and viewpoints. Learn about cultural differences, challenges, and what others do to leverage and mitigate those differences
  • Avoid basing your conclusions on obvious diversity characteristics, such as race or gender
  • Expand your definition of diversity – include differences in working style, personality, education, functional background, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, country culture, socio-economic status and race. Develop solutions for increasing diversity.

Shahid Sheikh OBE, managing director at Clifton Packaging Group Ltd, reflects on their success in establishing an inclusive and productive workforce.

“This is very difficult to plan and achieve. First, you need to understand the skills required and the training you are prepared to offer. As a family business, we initially started with an Asian workforce.

“This has grown, reflecting our diverse community in Leicester, to include staff from all areas of the Subcontinent, Europe and Africa. When looking for new staff our first call is usually made to our existing staff to ask them if they have any family or friends who would be interested in joining our team.

“We tend to grow our talent from within. Our staff become part of the business and the business becomes part of them. When a new member of staff joins us, their comfort in their new environment is important to us.

“We communicate with all our staff on a regular basis. We are honest and truthful, sharing the company’s vision and progress. We involve all staff in a positive change environment as they work together, interacting to create a solid social cohesion.”

Next steps:

  • This is not an HR issue, this belongs to everyone in your business. Circulate this article in advance of your next executive meeting
  • Invest 60 minutes to explore your strengths and weaknesses. Develop an action plan that each executive has a lead role in achieving
  • Hays identifies culture as the second-most important factor in engineering. Explore this further in our The Manufacturer article: Your Culture – the key to productivity
  • Join The Manufacturer at our Women and Diversity in Manufacturing Summit on 21 June when Fiona will be sharing how to achieve a Highly Productive Culture and how WOW conversations can transform behaviours in the workplace
  • Struggling with any of the above? Then contact Fiona Anderson to explore how working with Hennik Edge can help attract and retain staff and thereby increase productivity.

Fiona Anderson, founding director, ValuingYou & TM Top 100 Exemplar 2015.

Fiona Anderson is a specialist in culture change and director of valuingYOU. She is a member of Hennik Edge, The Manufacturer’s networked expert advisory team. She was named as an Exemplar Driver of Culture Change in The Manufacturer Top 100 2015 report, is the founder of the Greater Birmingham Engage for Success Network, and is a regular writer for CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development).

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