By Laura Thorne, MACNY Consulting Partner
Struggling to fill vacant positions? Try hiring for future potential rather than previous experience.
Since early 2021, over 43 million Americans (Long, 2022) have quit their jobs in what has been called “The Great Resignation”. For a variety of reasons (job dissatisfaction, desire to work remotely, financial reasons, COVID incentives, etc.), Americans have been resigning at a record rate.
For the manufacturing industry, however, this trend is actually not new. Employment in the manufacturing industry peaked in 1979 (Harris, 2020), and has been steadily declining since then. Additionally, “in the four years prior to the pandemic (2015-2019), the average tenure rate in manufacturing had decreased by 20%.” (Kuntz, 2022). The Great Resignation has only exacerbated what has been an existing concern for decades.
Due to this, successfully hiring and retaining the next generation is more important than ever.
Many companies end up making compromises in the hiring process when they have a dire need to fill a position (or multiple positions). This means that they hire fast and fire slow, when ideally they should be doing the opposite. But who can blame them if their customers are waiting for shipments and they can’t even afford to let people take their entitled days off?
The next time you’re in this position, consider hiring someone who is capable but might fall short on real-life experience. Giving someone their first opportunity and space to blossom can yield some great results, even if you do have to invest more time with them than you would a seasoned professional. Here’s an example to demonstrate why you might opt for this choice.
Let’s say you have two applicants for a Quality Assurance Manager position. Applicant A checks all the boxes — they have a deep understanding of the manufacturing industry and have worked in very similar roles across different companies for the last decade. When you interview them, they are clearly very skilled and seem like the type of person to put their head down, follow orders, and clock out at 5:00 p.m. When you ask them why they left their last job, they explain that the work was simply not fulfilling for them anymore.
Applicant B is only a few years out of college — they’re working as a Quality Assurance Inspector, but are eager to move up into a manager position. When you interview them, they are enthusiastic, funny, and actually give you a suggestion on how to speed up the assembly process. When you ask why they’re looking to move on from their current job, they explain that they have repeatedly been turned down for a manager position without explanation.
Both candidates would likely be a good fit for the position. You know Applicant A has the skills for the job, but you’re worried that if they found their last role unfulfilling, they will also be unhappy in this one. On the other hand, Applicant B seems like the type to go above and beyond, but you know that there will definitely be a significant learning curve.
So, who do you hire? In the short-term, Applicant A might be the safer choice, but someone who is focused on innovation like Applicant B will be an investment in the long-term. After they learn the ropes, they will likely seek out ways to improve already existing processes. Plus, energy is infectious — someone who loves their job will inspire others to do better, while a manager with a blasé attitude will make the whole team stagnate.
Great! You’ve hired someone who’s talented, driven, and eager to learn. Pat yourself on the back —hiring a good employee is hard. Resist your urge to micromanage them. Throw them into the deep end and see how they do while you stay within range if they need help. Rather than telling them what to do, tell them what your vision and goals are and listen to their ideas on how they can help accomplish them.
Give them autonomy to execute the strategy. By doing this, they learn through trial and error what works and can adapt the strategy accordingly. By trusting your employees from the get-go, you allow them to take accountability for their work, which makes them more motivated to achieve better results. And in turn, handing off some of your responsibilities to a new hire can free up your time.
It’s important to offer mentorship to your new employees. An employee will only flourish in an environment that encourages growth, so listen to their needs and personal goals. For instance, if an employee is looking to learn a new skill, see if there’s an opportunity you can connect them with or create for them. If not, let them know you will keep their goals in mind and follow-up when an opportunity arises.
Keep in mind that some level of job turnover is unavoidable and even healthy. People have circumstances outside of their job that can cause them to leave. There’s no reason to take it personally when a young person decides your job wasn’t right for them. Hiring smart, trusting your employees, and listening to their needs can help slow turnover rates and bring your company to the next level.
- Long, Heather. “Why manufacturing workers are voluntarily leaving jobs at rates never seen before.” The Washington Post, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/01/09/why-manufacturing-has-seen-biggest-spike-workers-quitting/.
- Harris, Katelynn. “Forty years of falling manufacturing employment : Beyond the Numbers: US Bureau of Labor Statistics.” Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20 November 2020, https://www.bls.gov/opub/btn/volume-9/forty-years-of-falling-manufacturing-employment.htm. Accessed 27 June 2022.
- Kuntz, Chris. “The Great Resignation in Manufacturing – AREA.” Augmented Reality for Enterprise Alliance, 6 April 2022, https://thearea.org/ar-news/the-great-resignation-in-manufacturing/. Accessed 27 June 2022.