Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Want to Attract the Best and the Brightest? Burnish Your Brand

By Jeff Moad
In recent weeks, researchers and experts have taken to arguing over just how many manufacturing jobs are going unfilled in the United States due to a shortage of qualified candidates. Some claim the number is 600,000, while others say that no more than 100,000 manufacturing jobs are unfilled, and that the skills gap is geographically isolated, seriously impacting only manufacturers in a few domestic locations.

It’s difficult to know who’s right in this battle of skills-gap studies. In the end, it doesn’t really matter. In my opinion, the three things that really matter are:

  1. Manufacturers from all parts of the country and all vertical markets are struggling to find candidates with the right skills to fill critical engineering and skilled plant floor positions. We continue to hear from many members of the Manufacturing Leadership Council that job applicants—including recent college graduates—arrive ill-prepared for the positions that are available. Manufacturing employers are often forced either to hire less-than-qualified candidates with the hope that they can get up to speed quickly, or to wait indefinitely for qualified people to show up.
  2. The situation is only going to get worse. A growing wave of baby boomer retirements is going to leave many more unfilled manufacturing jobs in its wake. At the same time, more manufacturing environments are demanding workers with a new mix of high-tech and collaborative skills, skills that many current manufacturing workers do not possess.
  3. The winners will be those manufacturers that put in place a comprehensive skills-development program that is linked to company strategy and that attracts a steady stream of the best and brightest job candidates.
Many of the necessary elements of such a skills-development program are pretty obvious. Manufacturers need to start by assembling a baseline assessment of the skills that exist in the organization, and how well they fit current needs. Mentoring programs can help you identify current employees who have the potential to grow into roles with a short supply of candidates.
Then manufacturers need to predict the mix of skills they will need in the future, taking into account their strategic plans and considering where and how the company will grow. A key element of this assessment will be a skills-competency model that spells out the roles and skills that will be important to the organization in the future.
Once you’ve got the skills-development strategy in place, you can start recruiting, with a focus on those skill sets that you’ve identified as critical to the company’s future. It’s at this stage that many manufacturers come up short by failing to aggressively market themselves in a way that will attract the attention of the best and the brightest. Manufacturers need to sell themselves to potential employees in the same way that they sell themselves to customers, using platforms such as the Internet and social media to burnish their brand.
“Often manufacturers engage in no high-level branding to raise their profile and appeal to potential employees,”said Deloitte Senior Manager Marcus Johnson on a recent webcast on the skills gap. “Many rely on individual employees or managers to enhance their brand. But they need to use employment websites, advertising, social media, and other platforms.”
Participation in high-profile, legitimate awards programs is one of the best ways for a manufacturer to build its brand. Showing prospective employees that your organization has been recognized for outstanding achievement by a respected third party can go a long way toward establishing your company’s image as a leader and an attractive employer. This goes for small and large manufacturers alike.
We have seen many great examples of this from winners of the Manufacturing Leadership 100 Awards, a program that the Manufacturing Leadership Council has run for the past nine years. The ML100 Awards recognize manufacturers that have achieved excellence in one of 11 categories, from operational excellence to sustainability. ML100 winners are honored at a gala event at the Breakers Resort in Palm Beach, FL, on May 15. But, more importantly, they get to use the Award to burnish their brand for a full year.
It’s hard to overstate the value that comes from raising your company’s external profile and rewarding your hard-working internal teams.
A good example of that is printer manufacturer Lexmark, which has been an ML100 Award winner several times. The company has promoted its wins, further enhancing its reputation as a global sustainability leader.
"Being recognized as a 2012 ML100 Award winner was truly an honor,” said John Gagel, Lexmark’s sustainability manager. “Not only was the recognition very rewarding for the many employees who worked so hard on the winning process, but it provided external validation that our efforts related to sustainability truly do make a difference to our employees, stakeholders, community, and customers alike."
Another great example is the Chirch Global Manufacturing Network, a relatively new network of Midwestern manufacturers that are collaborating to deliver customers a unique one-stop shopping solution. The initiative was recognized last year as the ML100 Small Enterprise Project of the Year.
“Chirch Global Manufacturing Network is honored to be recognized as Manufacturer of the Year,” said Chirch CEO Anthony Chirchirillo. “Our collaborative business model is now universally recognized as an innovative solution for independent, privately held manufacturers to successfully compete in the global economy.”
If your company hasn’t considered investing some time in a program such as the ML100 Awards, maybe you should. It’s a great way to burnish your brand and attract the next generation of best-and-brightest employees.
The ML100 Awards nomination deadline was recently extended to January 14. You can learn more about the ML100 Awards, download a nomination form, and submit your nomination at

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