The workforce is getting older. Technology is disrupting. Skills are in short supply. How can the manufacturing sector recruit for the future?

Technology will reinvent and not eliminate manufacturing jobs, according to a recent study by ABI Research. I think this goes against current convention. Automation, we are regularly told, will destroy jobs and push workers into unemployment or retirement. So how will this work?...If robots are not going to take all the jobs, it surely stands to reason that manufacturers will require new skills. With an ageing workforce, how can manufacturers attract younger workers to fill these roles?

While we often hear a lot of talk about how millennials and generation Z are influencing the workplace, the reality for manufacturing is very different. According to a whitepaper from Cranfield University, entitled UK manufacturing skills shortage creates future industry concerns, “UK manufacturing has an ageing workforce which needs replacements quickly.” Fair enough but what do you do if there aren’t enough people interested in the work? As the Cranfield study went onto say, “young people in the UK have less interest in manufacturing related subjects,” and there is a “lack of applicants with the right skills to fill open posts.”


Who do you think you are?...Image sells

It’s clearly a challenge. Manufacturing is not riding a popularity wave among young people right now. There is a perception issue, so manufacturing has to sell itself more intelligently. But how can manufacturers approach recruitment differently?

Selling the culture for one. While manufacturers are not always perceived to be the most innovative businesses, they certainly use innovative approaches to problems. AR and VR are great examples. Using the latest technology tools as part of a production process reimagines the age-old perspective of the shop floor. A culture of improvement, engagement and collaboration are also attractive to new recruits – we conducted a study of over 1000 employees and found over half of respondents (58%) considered technology for knowledge sharing and to easily find answers to questions essential. I will cover knowledge sharing in a later blog but the idea is clear – people want to be valued and work in a dynamic business.


The data game – AI, HR and differentiation

By selling the tools and the culture, manufacturers can start to differentiate themselves from other industries. And then it comes down to using data to become more focused and efficient. Developing internal structures to measure and analyse HR data, for example, will help organisations to understand their strong and weak points. Using AI to help manage the CV process could reduce HR burden, speeding-up the recruitment process and improving the cost to serve ratio.

Technology can help inform the entire recruitment experience, by enabling quicker and more accurate feedback, reducing wasted time, improving consistent communication and providing transparency. These are all factors that ranked highly in our employee survey for what people are looking for from a recruitment process.

For manufacturers it is simple. The ‘silver tsunami’ is coming. Time is ticking and competition for new recruits will only intensify. Manufacturers have to act now and use all the tools and tricks at their fingertips to make sure that in the eyes of millennials and generation Z, manufacturing is key to their futures.

As Liam Fox, Secretary of State for International Trade put it back in February in a speech to the EEF National Manufacturing Conference; “let’s today send out a loud and clear message that British manufacturing is not only alive and well but capable, cutting-edge and confident.”


Download our Personalisation and the Art of Employee Engagement e-book to explore the importance of keeping employees happy, and how employee engagement is key to productivity and profitability within organisations.