We have been in the Leadership Development and Corporate Training space for over 17 years and we have never seen anything like it. A pandemic hit the world and everything changed. Rules that were designed for workers who were actually at work, now had to be changed as many in the workforce started working from home. Supply chain issues hit the workplace, interrupting materials that organizations needed and slowed to a crawl the ability for organizations to deliver the products they had so proudly crafted to their customers.
Workers started leaving the workplace in droves, for all sorts of reasons. Early retirement, regular retirement, changing jobs, to become an entrepreneur, dropping out of the workforce because they didn’t like the new rules and they had a permanent place to stay in their parents’ basements. In short, it was a mess! But here we are, a couple years later and by most accounts, the pandemic is over. So now what?
Three things jumped up as major problems that must be solved in the workplace and quickly. Those three things are Recruitment, Retention and Training. They are too big to address all at once here so I’ll make this a three parter so we can take them one at a time. The first is recruitment and probably the biggest change that companies must pivot to. The line out the door that had 10 people to replace the one you were losing is gone, and the need for actively recruiting, rather than passively recruiting, is immediate.
The new words in recruiting are partnerships and pipelines. The partnerships are important, because they are the source of your pipeline, and most of all manufacturing needs people.
First partnership is high schools. Yes, the old standby that has kids graduating every year. Kids who will be looking for a job! Manufacturing lost contact with most schools because when schools got hit with a money crunch, they decided to get rid of most programs that had kids working with their hands and their creativity. They took out shop class and manufacturing didn’t blink, because they still had crowds outside, waiting to fill out an application. Then over the next decade, kids started to forget about manufacturing and still had the old idea that it was about dirty factories and grimy, hard work. Let me ask you this: Does your organization still go to job fairs at high schools? You should! Establishing relationships early is a leg up on this journey. It would be even better if you invited some of those same students to your facility for a tour so they can see how cool manufacturing has become today.
Factories are increasingly clean and well lit. They have machines that are heavily computerized, they have robotics, they are moving this country forward at warp speed, but they forgot to keep everyone up to speed on their progress.
What about summer internships? There are plenty of kids that are not going to college and are creative, hardworking and talented. Re-establish the connection. The same goes for all colleges, especially technical and community colleges. Engineers are in great demand for manufacturing, so relationships have to be built, rebuilt or strengthened.
The last group to consider are your current employees. According to studies conducted by the likes of Columbia and Princeton, as well as much larger studies by Gallup, the average person knows over 600 people, and guess how many people those people all know?
The question you must answer is how strong is your relationship with your people? Can you sit them down and ask them to help you in building a better, stronger, more resilient future together? If your relationship is strong or if you’re actively working on it, you can literally have thousands of people working on your behalf to make that future a reality.
So, let’s understand, while all of this seems negative and regressive and definitely is going to involve some work, leadership at all levels must stand up and be counted. This is your chance to rebuild the partnerships that made manufacturing, cities and educational institutions such a force when they got it right. I’ll be back to hit on the other two legs of this triangle, but for now, we all have work to do.