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In Focus: Taking Steps to Fill Your Company’s Talent Pipeline

Companies must take the time to identify potential new hires, build a relationship, and follow up with training and support in order to build today’s — and tomorrow’s — workforce.

Q4 2019
It’s no secret the manufacturing and construction industries are facing a shortage of workers at every level. To build a talent pipeline, manufacturing and construction companies need to embrace the challenge, dedicate resources, and invest in programs to change the future. Building a solid talent pipeline requires a multifaceted approach that addresses internal and external factors of your organization.

One set of strategies is applicable to positions in management or other high-skill careers. Companies should establish programs to engage at the university and technical college levels by presenting to classes, sponsoring student competitions and organizations, developing internship programs, and recruiting on campus. It’s a good idea for recent hires and millennials to be involved in the recruiting process; their recent experience makes them relatable to students.

A key component of any outreach program should be to dispel myths about careers in construction and manufacturing. Advances in technology, training, safety, and quality have combined to make jobs in traditional trades cleaner, safer, and more skilled than they were in previous generations. These jobs now offer career tracks, with the potential for advancement and financial growth.

On-Boarding and Mentoring
Once students become new hires, companies should follow up with on-boarding and mentoring programs to round out employees’ knowledge with more in-depth, hands-on experience and candid coaching. Small-group training sessions and rotations between processes, lines, projects, or departments are examples of how mentoring can be conducted. By working with experienced professionals, engineers and other specialists can build upon their understanding of technical concepts and theories.

Millennials and other workers from younger generations usually prove to be focused on growth and appreciate seeing what their career paths could look like. It’s up to the company to develop a framework of support that provides enrichment and encourages development. Companies need to own the development of their talent pipeline. Tasks that keep a company on track for this include identifying a champion for individual employees and initiatives, developing well-rounded recruitment and outreach programs, identifying targets, and setting concrete goals.

Recruiting veterans, minorities, and women should be a priority; doing so not only expands the talent pool, but enhances company culture, which in itself goes a long way toward supporting employee development. Companies should deliberately create a culture of growth and inclusiveness that people want to be a part of.

Setting up company programs to help new hires pay back student loans is a recent trend. Not a lot of companies are doing it, so being one of the first to roll out such a program could be a differentiator. Surveys indicate a lot of interest among job-seekers, with one survey finding that 45 percent of the respondents considered student loan repayment the single most compelling employee benefit.

Most industrial and construction companies will also benefit from working with partner organizations on programs that target middle- and high-school students, giving them early, pre-apprenticeship training for the skilled trades. Many industry associations, economic development organizations, chambers of commerce, and commerce departments now have such programs.

Structured Development
Create opportunities for employees at every level to participate in structured development programs. These can take place on the job, in the classroom, or through eLearning. Equipment, process, and operator training will likely be key components of any mentorship program, but don’t leave out social gatherings, which can offer a more informal way to engage employees and allow for an exchange of information. Also consider developing a formal approach to knowledge-sharing so seasoned employees can transfer their knowledge to younger employees.

Each employee should have a learning “transcript” or skills inventory. This, along with performance and goals, can be tracked through an online system or app, helping management — as well as the employee — assess development.

Changes impacting the manufacturing and construction world can ultimately have a positive impact on manufacturing and construction employment. Companies that take the time to identify potential new hires, build a relationship, communicate with them, then follow up with training and support can build a workforce that makes them competitive in this new era.

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