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Posted 08/07/2020

Building a Quality Manufacturing Workforce in a Volatile Employment Market

In 2020, many manufacturing businesses find themselves in a fight for existence, facing a volatile employment market that few could have imagined a mere six months ago.

A deadly virus …
The temporary closure of many businesses …
Restructuring workspaces to protect worker health …
Unemployment rates higher than any our nation has seen since the Great Depression …

The cost of this volatility has been devastating to our economy and business community.

But for some Minnesota manufacturing businesses, crisis has turned into opportunity that benefits not only the company and its workers, but the entire nation. They’ve been able to shift production lines, or to significantly ramp up production of products now considered essential. As they grow, they bring along with them the ancillary businesses needed to package their products.

Businesses with the vision, the capacity, and the technical know-how to succeed in this crisis now face an unexpected and paradoxical challenge – securing and retaining enough workers to keep their production lines rolling.

 

Workforce Challenges

It seems counter-intuitive in a high-unemployment environment, to have difficulty building a workforce, but several factors have combined to make skilled manufacturing workers scarcer.

  • Some workers are afraid to return to work because of concerns about increased risk of COVID-19 exposure.
  • Some parents have been forced out of the workforce due to daycare and school closures.
  • Some workers aren’t looking for work because they are satisfied with enhanced unemployment benefits.
  • Many of the people who are looking for work have no experience in a manufacturing production line or warehouse setting.

 

HR Department Challenges

Minnesota manufacturing companies are facing internal challenges as well.

  • COVID-preparedness and worker health and safety has fallen heavily on the shoulders of HR directors and staff.
  • In many cases, HR staff are now required to work from home per State and CDC guidelines. While this certainly reduces viral exposure risk, and many tasks can be accomplished from home, it leaves a gap in workforce management that can be frustrating to workers.
  • And of course, for those manufacturing businesses that are ramping up production, the work of recruitment, onboarding and training has greatly increased – and in a short span of time!

Add to these challenges the difficulty of accessing skilled workers and you can see why some HR directors and their staff are stretched to breaking.  Some report that their workload has doubled. They simply don’t have the time to source good applicants or to process the large number of applicants they are getting.

 

The Building Blocks for Securing a Quality Workforce

Sudden staffing needs for skilled workers in Minnesota can best be met by working with a regional staffing agency with expertise in the Minnesota manufacturing workforce.

Consider the following when selecting a manufacturing-specific staffing agency:

  • Select a qualified regional staffing agency that really knows your local employment market and specializes in qualifying, placing and coaching manufacturing employees within CDC and OSHA guidelines. This is a very specific set of hard and soft skills and an agency that has worked with manufacturing employees will know this and be best prepared to look for those skills in prospects.
  • Work with agency recruiters who value and are able to conduct in-person interviews, while still meeting the CDC guidelines for physical distancing. Personal contact and evaluation are critical for identifying quality talent. This will be particularly important if the worker is shifting from one industry to another.
  • Require that your local staffing agency perform on-site new employee orientations and perform manufacturing facility tours, again, following CDC guidelines. Orientation is extremely important and can be time consuming. When your agency performs the task, it frees time from your HR department.
  • Require that your staffing agency recruitment team work in close partnership with your manufacturing management team and supervisors. This will mean frequent communication to ensure problems are identified and quality is maintained.
  • In partnership with your staffing agency recruitment team, develop metrics you can use to evaluate your new employee workforce. Measurement data can be used to develop coaching programs to help less experienced employees succeed.

 

The Value of Working with A Dedicated Manufacturing Staffing Agency

The challenges faced by Minnesota manufacturers are unprecedented. It takes vision, flexibility, and a strong team to ensure companies find the workers they need with the skills to produce high quality essential goods. A specialized manufacturing staffing agency like Moffat Workforce can be an invaluable team member.

Moffat Workforce (formerly MPS Technical) has been helping Minnesota manufacturing clients build a solid, dependable workforce for 27 years. With fewer experienced, skilled machine operators and assemblers looking for work, having a database of thousands of current and past workers can provide an edge in outreach. Past clients can be valuable resources for personal referrals.  

Moffat account managers have a deep understanding of the job duties of manufacturing workers and the hard and soft skills required to be successful in a manufacturing setting. This is extremely useful when vetting job applicants who are changing industries, perhaps moving from the service sector to the manufacturing sector. Every Moffat candidate is vetted by video interview and/or in-person meeting by both a recruiter and an account manager to validate skills and experience.

For overstretched HR departments, having a Moffat account manager handle the onboarding process, worksite introduction, and facility tour frees up staff time to do other critical work. Regular meetings with workers on the production floor and frequent contact between the account manager and manufacturing management ensures any problems are handled closest to the source, before they become an issue for HR.

In times of critical need, when success matters most, bring an experienced staffing agency on board can make all the difference.

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