How manufacturing recruiters can win the fight for the best tech talent

Aug. 28, 2019
Who holds the cards when it comes to hiring STEM professionals?

By Ian Clark, head of Americas at Washington Frank

The manufacturing industry has always had a healthy reliance on technology, but as the digital revolution transforms businesses in countless sectors, it’s become clear that there’s still potential to go further.

Washington Frank's Ian Clark

Advances in robotics are improving production on the frontline itself, with innovations in software driving a leaner and more efficient process all the way from design to the end product. The attractiveness of this to businesses is undeniable; at a time when industry is more competitive than ever, small advantages can make a big difference.

The drive to spend money on technology is definitely there—IDC predict that three quarters of large manufacturers will have updated both their operations and analytics by the end of 2019. The smartest business leaders aren’t just looking at the tech they need, though; they already have an eye on the talent required to operate it.

Understanding the job market

While hiring technology professionals may seem an intimidating task for recruitment teams used to staffing more traditional roles, it’s imperative that recruiters get up to speed. The best individuals are already in huge demand, and it’s estimated that the current skills gap will quickly turn into a crisis.

Attracting the best workers can be the difference between success and failure.

Technologies such as ERP develop quickly, but luckily finding qualified techies to work with your company’s solution doesn’t mean you suddenly need to know the ins and outs of the platform itself. Your existing technology teams will be able to tell you exactly what you’re looking for, and there are many online tools available to assess a candidate’s skills. Any good recruiter will also have access to these.

Most important is acknowledging who holds the cards when it comes to hiring STEM professionals. Highly-skilled individuals have always held the upper hand, but the demand for tech talent means that that advantage has morphed into near-absolute power. Instead of patiently negotiating to get a good deal, business leaders must be swift and decisive when it comes to hiring decisions in order to secure the expertise needed.

Improving retention

Offering competitive compensation is crucial, but that doesn’t mean your job is done once you’ve made yourself an attractive proposition to candidates. Instead, you should focus on holding onto your tech dream team. Opportunities for them to move on will be commonplace, making retention just as important a part of your strategy as the initial hiring process.

The benefits offered will hold some sway in the decision-making process. That means keeping abreast of market trends to head off the temptation of better offers. Flexible working conditions will always be attractive—nobody enjoys a commute, and being able to work some or all of the week remotely is an easy way to win over staff, especially as being site-specific is non-essential for the majority of modern tech roles.

Beyond benefits, employee engagement is a vital (yet criminally overlooked) factor in retention. The most common complaints we hear from the candidates we work with are that the opportunities to progress are limited. Make sure the route to bigger things within your organization is clear, so that those with ambition can visualize their future with you. Be prepared to pay for their ongoing training and development. Not only will you benefit from improved engagement by contributing toward expenses for things like certifications, you’ll also have staff trained to get the absolute maximum out of the platform you’ve chosen to drive your business forward.

The innovations driving this industrial revolution are incredible and will transform the way most sectors work. Businesses are adopting technologies that streamline and improve their entire operations, which will change the face of the modern workforce.

That comes at a cost, as the demand for the best tech workers is huge and the supply is limited. It doesn’t mean it’s impossible, though. You don’t need to know the technology inside-out to get ahead of your rivals, but you do need to strategize—and implement—changes if you want to win the battle for this talent.

Want to learn more about making IT and OT talent work together? Check out our Technology Report on the topic right here.