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Attracting and Retaining Top Talent in the New Normal

Siemens has taken a new proactive approach to fulfilling its labor force needs with revamped recruiting, onboarding, retention, and training programs.

Workforce Q4 2018
Siemens plans to double its number of apprentices. Shown here: instructor with apprentices and 3D printing machine
Siemens plans to double its number of apprentices. Shown here: instructor with apprentices and 3D printing machine
One of the biggest challenges today that manufacturers encounter is finding skilled labor. Employer demand for labor is now greater than the supply, and with the unemployment rate at a 10-year low, the question of where to turn for experienced, highly skilled technical talent is very real for manufacturers. With limited internal staff and processes to attract, source, screen or onboard, and train talent, many manufacturers are unprepared to meet the demands of today’s labor market.

Currently, the population of the United States is growing faster than the U.S. workforce, reported Barron’s. It’s a state of affairs that occurred twice during the last century (1948–1967 and 1991–1999) and was accompanied by labor shortages both times. This time, baby-boomers’ retirements may exacerbate the situation. Some estimates suggest the current labor shortage could last through 2050.

In addition to rapid population growth, according to Forbes, the causes of the growing shortfall are also attributed to an education system that produces too few graduates grounded in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) disciplines; some reputation problems — which are mostly a case of perceptions trailing reality — that manufacturers aren’t clean and progressive workplaces; and an under-appreciation by young people and their parents of the favorable wages in U.S. manufacturing, averaging about $77,500 a year and of the innovative, sophisticated, and global nature of the work.

Siemens and the New Normal
The jobs at Siemens are highly technical and require technical knowledge and experience. The company builds trains, steam and gas turbines, deploys software to automate factories, and installs systems to run smarter infrastructure, all at a massive global scale. Siemens’ technology must keep up with the rapid rate of change, and to do this, it has to make sure it is upskilling its existing talent. The company has a history of making significant investments in training its employees. In fact, Siemens spends $50M in job training in the U.S. each year.

Finding candidates of the quality and quantity required is the most significant challenge Siemens’ faces. The other challenges are the continued aging of the workforce, lack of qualified engineering talent coming into the workforce, and the digitalization of work to the extent that it can be done from anywhere. Moreover, mid-level skills are becoming harder to find in the market.

Like many other organizations Siemens relied on a reactive approach to talent acquisition, posting roles on career sites hoping for the best candidates to apply. Now, Siemens is taking a far more targeted and proactive role by engaging potential candidates prior to jobs being available for them and using a completely new suite of IT tools to facilitate that process.

For example, the company faced challenges related to gaps in federal markets and employment brand recognition within the military community. Then, in 2003, Siemens began working with Orion as a strategic partner to manage its military hiring initiative. The Siemens Military Talent Program with Orion officially launched in 2010 and provides a continuous pipeline of high-caliber military talent, combined with a brand marketing campaign, training platform, and key metric reporting and delivery. Over the last five years, in partnership with Orion, Siemens has hired over 2,500 veterans and has committed to hire an additional 300 veterans per year for the next three years.

Inside the Revamped Program: Recruiting
Simply put, Siemens went from a reactive generalized approach to recruiting to a proactive segmented approach where ideal candidate profiles for key job families were identified, and then focused sourcing efforts on talent pools that could fulfill those requirements were implemented. As an example, Siemens knows that many of its roles can be done quite successfully by veterans, but not necessarily just any veteran — those with certain experiences and skillsets. Therefore, partnering with Orion adds significant value to the company’s approach by finding exactly who is needed in a far more effective way than Siemens could on its own.

No one, better than industry, can help establish and strengthen training and education systems. Inside the Revamped Program: Onboarding
Siemens has evolved from a new employee orientation to a new employee engagement framework. With so many separate operating units it can be difficult to create common processes and standard information to be shared with new employees. However, without some standardization, there was a missed opportunity to truly engage new employees when they joined the organization.

As a result, a new employee engagement program was created that acts as a platform to engage new hires across the entire company. This common framework includes a comprehensive approach to communication, a standard new employee orientation, and a new employee website which hosts relevant onboarding information for hiring managers, new employees, and HR professionals.

Inside the Revamped Program: Retention
At Siemens, it’s believed companies only really succeed if they fulfill the needs of the society in which they work. That means business has a responsibility for economic and social development, and that companies must add lasting value to the countries and communities they work in. The fact that its employees not only view Siemens as a good place to work, but also see how the things they are doing directly impact our society has a significant influence on retention. Siemens employees are proud of the great work that the company does. In addition to that, good HR practices reinforce retention throughout an employee’s career at Siemens.

Siemens’ focus is on engagement from an employee’s first day of employment, providing access to a robust training and development tailored to each individual, having transparency into global job opportunities, a continual dialogue as part of the performance management processes, and obviously, competitive compensation and benefits programs. The sum of these done well is the right approach to retention.

Inside the Revamped Program: Training
Siemens has a significant commitment to training and development worldwide. Digital is the future. Siemens is reinventing itself as a fully digital company — just like many of its customers. And what is being seen with robots is very clear: they add value, although it’s true they’ll replace certain tasks.

To run an advanced industry, you need highly trained people. This year, Siemens is doubling the number of states and nearly doubling the total number of participants in our apprenticeship program, and we will hire a thousand more veterans over the next three years. In addition, the company has a global learning campus organization with a hub in Orlando, Florida, that provides access to hundreds of online training programs in addition to offering targeted classroom training as well.

The choices are endless; this is an area where Siemens continues to invest in technology and where it makes it easy for employees to access training whenever they want from wherever they are.

One Step Ahead
Industry is most qualified to define the skills needed to run new technology. No one, better than industry, can help establish and strengthen training and education systems. Still, it’s bigger than any one company. Together, industry needs to build a system of industrial reskilling that is responsive to industry trends and that weathers the potentially adverse impacts to workers inherent in such an increasingly unpredictable job market. In a time of record corporate profits, companies have responsibility to ensure workers, not just the companies themselves, benefit from the digital age.

Industry has a legacy of upholding America’s middle class. Now it must prove it still can. From a recruiting perspective, Siemens’ approach is to focus on delivering top-tier service to its hiring manager customers today while trying to predict and plan for the future. This is a daunting task but by piloting new approaches and new tools, Siemens may be able to stay one step ahead of the change.

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