Working The Problem: 20 Unique Ideas For Finding Talent

Make the commute easier. Protolabs CEO Vicki Holt decided to locate an entire new plant in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, largely because it was smack on a public bus route that would allow easy transportation for future workers.

“We can tap a new labor pool and make it easier for them to get there with public transportation,” Holt says about the plant where the small-batch manufacturer plans to grow its workforce eventually to about 400 people. “It’s important for new team members, and we don’t have great public transportation to our [other] plant. And people don’t like to commute a real long way.”

Network digitally. A big part of being able to hire young workers is understanding where they hang out, digitally speaking, and going there. So Cape Cod Five Cents Savings Bank, for instance, set up a private group for its young employees on LinkedIn through which they communicate with their friends who aren’t bank employees and try to recruit them.

Boost internships. The bank also has gotten good immediate results after elevating its summer internships to paid positions beginning two years ago. There were 28 interns at Cape Cod Five Cents in 2017 and 45 of them in 2018, each making $15 an hour—and boosting current bank operations while also creating potential interest by new employees upon their graduation.

“They now have full-time jobs doing full-time work that our staff otherwise would have to do, in branches and in special projects in residential and commercial lending, even in IT, and other areas,” says Laura Newstead, executive vice president and chief human resources officer of the Harwich Port, Massachusetts-based company.

Expand apprenticeships: Manufacturing and technical companies keep expanding apprenticeship opportunities as they try to work down younger and younger into the stream of potential new employees, often working with government funding to make them more robust.

In Connecticut, for instance, companies that are part of its huge contingent of defense and aerospace contractors are taking advantage of the state’s dramatic expansion of what had been a significantly underutilized apprenticeship program.

“We’ve worked with the state on forming a customized program for our needs, which means welders and tube benders,” says Chris DiPentima, president of Pegasus Manufacturing, a division of Leggett & Platt Aerospace that makes components for air frames and engines. “Now we have a unique pipeline we didn’t have five years ago.”

Being fun. Graduating millennials and, now, members of Generation Z come out of college with the full expectation of working somewhere fun, no matter what the job or industry. And while it’s become mere table stakes, providing such an environment is important to attracting young workers.

So at Neuworks Mechanical, a Fort Collins, Colorado-based contractor that employs 75 plumbers but needs 15 or 20 more, there’s a pool table, ping-pong table and Kegerator. The company even hosts outdoor bluegrass concerts as well as indoor events that can fit as many as 100 people in its 12,000-square-foot facility.

“You can also can have a beer with your manager and talk in a more candid light than if you’re out in the field and frustrated and can’t talk with anyone,” says COO Travis Slisher.

Hire veterans. More and more companies are committing to the idea of hiring U.S. military veterans not out of just patriotism or altruism but also because they’re finding that vets typically are fantastic employees.

Jaguar Land Rover North America, for example, has placed about 300 military veterans as service technicians with owners of the brand’s 200 or so U.S. dealers, with plans to hire 120 to 140 a year going forward. Already, 14 percent of all of its technicians are vets.

“They have not only the technical expertise but the right mindset,” David Wolfe, director of retailer training and recognition. “Their experience in the military gives them a level of discipline that’s required for jobs like this, and they embody the team spirit we require. It’s been a great pathway for us to fill some gaps in technician needs.”

Ply your location. Companies on the coasts can offer au courant urban environments and ocean views, but CEOs just about anywhere can find ways to make their locale appeal to sufficient numbers of candidates. In Fort Wayne, for example, Pasterick plays up the city’s burgeoning downtown redevelopment—and a reasonable cost of living that the coasts can’t match.

Use more automation. This may seem like a version of giving up on finding flesh-and-blood workers, but manufacturers, distributors and others are leveraging increasingly capable new technologies to create productive human-machine relationships that actually can enhance the appeal of many jobs.

At the Toyota Motor factory in Princeton, Indiana, for instance, Plant Manager Millie Marshall is overseeing installation of dozens of new, mobile “collaborative robots” that will operate amongst the human workers assembling a new SUV in a facility expansion in 2019 that will boost employment by 400 people.

“We’re not eliminating people, just helping them to do more and become more efficient with these robots,” she says.

Look to the (far) future. While scrambling for workers now, and for the next few years, many CEOs also are becoming more deliberate about planting seeds for far-future harvests of workers.

Whitcraft Group, a contract aerospace and defense manufacturer in Eastford, Connecticut, for instance, works with other local manufacturers on programs to reach school kids as young as the junior-high level “to get the word out there that it’s not your father’s manufacturing environment any more,” says Co-Executive Chairman Colin Cooper. “We outreach to parents as well as students.”

Read more: 3 Ways To Overcome The “Small Town” Talent Shortage