Friday, January 04, 2013

Manufacturing Employment IS (not) Dead in the US!

There are always going to be naysayers and those who want us to believe the negative.  While we were almost beginning to believe that all manufacturing has left or is leaving the US, we are now seeing evidence of its return - or maybe some never left.  There is also a not so quiet addition to the American manufacturing story – foreign manufacturers who are successfully finding talent and building their products in the US.


What is really interesting are the headquarters locations of some of the companies that have experienced success manufacturing their automobiles within the US for some time – BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Subaru, Toyota, Honda, and Nissan.  With them are their suppliers.  Over one third of all cars produced in the US in 2008 were produced in US plants owned by foreign manufacturers.


Now the folks who thought all of our manufacturing was taking in place in China and India are complaining that there not enough trained workers in the US to re-shore manufacturing here.


There are times we need to be careful what we say – and what we ask for.  If enough people are fed that propaganda long enough, they will believe it.  Then we may really have problems.


The evidence shows that there are manufacturing jobs in every state.  Obviously there may be states where there are more experienced manufacturing talent or states where there is a greater need for experienced people for manufacturing jobs.  This is not an unusual situation in other industries.  Remember Software Engineers in Silicon Valley in 1999/2000?  I was out there recruiting for a client then.  It was a free for all.  Did the need for more software engineers end that growth?  No, more likely it was the fact that there were more poor business plans than lack of experienced software engineers that caused the Dot Bomb.


Where do we go from here?  Somehow Honda has found experienced workers in Ohio since 1982.  They produce a popular and quality Honda Accord there.  Subaru builds their quality Outback in a zero landfill manufacturing facility in Indiana.


We need to get manufacturers in high schools to begin to discuss the new clean and well lit manufacturing facilities and whet the students’ appetite for these jobs.  Let them know there is a future career in manufacturing.  Get into Community Colleges and make them aware that manufacturing is alive in the US.


Recruit out of areas that have excess manufacturing talent.  People will move if they find the right job and find housing.  Work with technical and community colleges to create training programs that train both recent high school graduates and previously experienced workers for work in production facilities.  During the telecom boom in the 1990’s, Northwest Kansas Technical College in Goodland, Kansas created such a quality telecom outside plant training program that there were often more recruiters than graduates from their program (I usually got my share!).  Many of their students were not traditional students.  They were experienced in other fields prior to attending Northwest Kansas Technical College.


Work with these schools to create manufacturing training programs like the one I mentioned above.  It could become your own minor league development location until other manufacturers learn about it.  If your production facilities use Lean/Agile, this training could include all aspects of eliminating waste and continuous process improvement.  Possibly create a certification program that enables workers to work and get paid while learning new skills.


Take a look at this website"target”_blank”   As of December 31, 2012 BLS table U6 shows that over 14% of all workers are unemployed or underemployed.  Are there potential manufacturing professionals in those 23 million people out of work?  With that kind of potential source of candidates, I would love to recruit production workers for a client with a Lean/Agile production facility!


Work with your state’s economic development and workforce development groups to create the training needed; and let’s get workers back to work – and more manufacturing back in the US!  Every time one person finds a new job, our economy improves.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Let's Go Find The Wrong Person!

Obviously companies do not intentionally, knowingly set out to find the wrong person to fill a job.  On the other hand, if they do not seriously create meaningful job descriptions, this is the path they are on.

Several months ago we discussed that every company has a Recruitment Strategy whether they are aware of it or not.  Some Recruitment Strategies are very simple – “Just Recruit”.  Obviously those strategies make it difficult to improve because there are no processes defined. 

This series of recruitment process improvement articles continues with the most important fundamental of the Recruitment Process – the Job Description.  As the foundation of the Recruitment Process, the Job Description determines:

1)      The Sourcing Process;

2)      The Interviewing Process;

3)      The Selection Process;

4)      The Offer Process;

5)      The Final Candidate Due Diligence;

6)      And will positively impact the first year’s retention. 

The job description is that important.

How many times have you read job descriptions and wondered really what the person was going to do on the job?  In my almost 32 years of recruitment experience, I have seen executives require that job descriptions intentionally be vaguely written so it gives them the most latitude in selecting the person they want to hire.  I have worked with hiring managers who did not want to give important details because “I need flexibility” in selecting the right candidate.  One of those managers selected a candidate that I suggested may not be the best fit.  Six months later, they came to me and told me “Your candidate is not working out.”  I reminded them that we discussed the person prior to the offer.  If we had truly specified the responsibilities and goals for the position prior to beginning the recruitment process, the candidate/employee probably would not have been among those selected for interviews.

Additionally candidates express frustration when job descriptions are vague.  As a result, many times companies and recruiting firms receive many more unqualified candidates replying to their vague postings.  Candidates feel that “maybe I am a fit for this job” and then apply.  How much time does these unwanted responses cost your recruiting team?  All of these unqualified responses take time from considering candidates who may have the right experience but not in your company’s search terms (and that is the difficulty of allowing the applicant tracking system to “screen out” candidates).  Consider that it is fine for candidates to decide not to apply if the job is not one that truly interests them or they determine they are not qualified.  Why attract candidates that you have no desire to hire?

What is the best way to structure a job description?  Since the person will report to a manager, isn’t it best to train and guide the hiring manager how to create an effective job description?  Some positions like call center and production line positions may be cookie cutter job descriptions.  Just ensure they are up to date to cover new technologies or processes that may have been introduced.

Obviously what should be the easiest task is to list the day to day duties for the position.  Then list any special project responsibilities, for instance people who work for the Sundance Institute probably have additional duties during the 10 days of the Sundance Film Festival.  Determine any strategic planning or implementations the position is responsible and list them.  What management responsibilities are included in this position?  Are budget responsibilities included?  How many people will they manage directly and indirectly?  What system of management does your company embrace – matrix or line?

Once the responsibilities are listed and verified, it is time to add the special sauce that really helps your company determine the best qualified candidate and then retain them.  Now it is time to list the 3 month, 6 month, 9 month, and 12 month goals for the position.  Once these goals are determined, the skills and experience necessary to be successful the first year become crystal clear.

It is important to ensure that the job description contains management responsibilities if the person will be a manager; and conversely that there are no management responsibilities if the person is a sole contributor.  It is important to mention that a job description does not contain all responsibilities related to the position.  Why?  Business requirements change as business conditions change.  The job description should include any physical requirements for the position.  It is also important to include EEO at the end of the job description for public posting.

At this point, your hiring manager and recruiter have a clear picture of the ideal candidate.  The recruiter and hiring manager should discuss the best method of sourcing the qualified candidates.  Hiring managers need to be active in sourcing but that is another conversation about engagement. 

Smart recruiters create a phone screen based on the job description and present it to the hiring manager for their comments and participation in the search.  Since the goals are listed, the phone screen becomes more relevant and focused.  Now the hiring manager has the needed information to create an interview that measures skills and experience plus the opportunity to probe candidate responses in the phone screen.

Why do some hiring managers dread the interviewing process?  They feel they do not have the information needed to effectively interview and select the best qualified candidate.  This is part of the value of a well-structured job description with the goals included.  Effective interviews are enormously important in determining the best qualified candidate who is also the best cultural fit.  As candidates are reviewed after the interview, the elements of the job description are the best way to determine their fit.

Companies do have a choice when they develop a job description process.  If an effective job description is not a priority in a company, the recruitment process may be “Let’s Go Find The Wrong Person!”  If the effective job description becomes a priority for a company:

1)      The candidates will be more focused;

2)      Interviews will be more focused;

3)      Selection will be focused on the best qualified candidate;

4)      And, there is a stronger likelihood of retaining the best employees.