As Manufacturing.net has mentioned many times before, there is an epidemic of sorts within the high-tech manufacturing community, in that there are thousands of available jobs, but few candidates to fill them. And while manufacturers have staken off in dozens of directions on the best methods to fill those roles — some have stepped up apprenticeship programs or collaboration with local schools, while others have poached from competitors — Irma Long, Director of Global Talent Acquisition at ACCO Brands has one simpler solution: better talent management.
Long is knows as well as anyone the difficulty of not only finding the skilled employees, but also tracking them as required by all government contractors. Leading up the global hiring efforts of ACCO Brands, which is the parent company to roughly two dozen other companies, including manufacturers of school and office supplies, Long has seen the coming and going of just about every trend in finding the right people for the work at hand.
The truth is that a large portion of this skilled labor shortage cannot be solved by any given manufacturer — in many cases, the people simply aren’t trained well enough, or aren’t willing to take on new skills. With that in mind, making the best of this situation is a matter of using whatever tools necessary to take advantage of the small portion that is under a manufacturer’s control.
Long says that comes in a good talent management system that not only actively seeks out qualified candidates, but also does much of the legwork involved in weeding out those not well-suited for the job. In addition, the system should make is incredibly easy to prove the path of hiring or turning down any candidate, as no one wants to be found non-compliant, or be subject to a discrimination lawsuit. When all of those components come together, Long says, a manufacturer is able to take control of the situation as best they can.
Finding the talent
The first key to finding the necessary talent is ensuring that the job listing gets out to as many people as possible, and with ACCO Brands’ current system, iCIMS, that becomes a relatively easy process. Long says that she has worked with a number of local and national organizations that will list the job opening, at which point iCIMS is able to feed all the opening’s details onto a nationwide playing field. That’s ideal not only for making sure the job gets in front of those who have the skills, but also in order to ensure regulatory compliance.
Long prefers to take the approach of collecting as many applicants as possible, and then sorting through them via a skills “profile.” With iCIMS, she says, “If somebody applies and you’re looking for someone with a particular skill for machinery, if that person doesn’t have that skill, the system will automatically disqualify their application. When the recruiter reviews the applicant flow, they are reviewing those candidates that actually have the skillset for that machinery.”
Those who simply don’t meet the requirements — say, two years of experience on CNC machinery — are notified that they do not meet the necessary skillset, but that they should be on the lookout for future openings with the company. By opening up her hiring to the “firehose” of applicants, so to speak, Long is then able to smartly apply filters from the entire applicant base to further expect only those with right talents. And that, she says, might be one of the reasons many manufacturers are having trouble finding skilled workers — they’re simply not reaching out enough.
And the fears that having an online application system, as found in most modern talent management systems, instead of the traditional resume-in-the-mail system, are probably overblown. Long says that most companies take applications online today, and employees are used to that process, but at the same time, ACCO also works with job banks and employment agencies to ensure potential applicants are given the help necessary to get in a resume. And because many plant floor workers don’t have a resume on hand, the iCIMS system allows them to simply fill out an application requesting much of the same detail.
Stay organized, stay compliant
In a day when many manufacturers can’t find the necessary talent, a firehose of potential applicants must be a wonderful thing for hiring managers, right? Not so quick — Long says the issue is more complex, particularly when it comes to organization and government compliance. Receiving hundreds of applications for a single opening would be overwhelming if everything was conducted with paper resumes and applications. A talent management system helps keep everything just a search away.
Aside from the sanity of hiring managers, organization is critical for government contractors or those who seek to avoid any potential of a discrimination lawsuit. Long says, “As a federal contractor, we need to be compliant. Not having a system like this makes it very difficult not to be in compliance. It becomes a paper process — you could make mistakes or you could lose the paper. If you’re an organization that has different manufacturing sites, it becomes very difficult to get all the information in one place.”
Long suggests manufacturers imagine what would happen if a government employee came into their offices and wanted all reports from a specific day in a previous year, because this can and does happen, Long says. What would be the consequences of that request? At ACCO Brands, Long says, “At any given time, anybody can look in the system and look at a report, so if we’re audited by the government, we will have all the data available in one place at the push of a button. A company that doesn’t have something like this would run the risk of not being in compliance.”
And the compliance factor swings back around to the reason why Long emphasizes collecting as many applicants as possible from as many places. She says, “We’re required not only to do the massive outreach, but also to collect the data and document all the applicants and why they were not considered and who was ultimately hired.” This not only helps find good candidates that might have otherwise gone overlooked, but also to fend off the threat of discrimination lawsuits. Long can prove, for any given job, the reason one was turned away while another was given an offer.
What to look for
When looking for a talent management system, Long says there are three main needs. First is the ability to customize the platform for specific business needs, such as developing new portals or formulating specific requirements for an opportunity. Second, manufacturers should look for systems with a focus on meeting customer demand — iCIMS offers a major upgrade every six months, which brings new features that customers have been requesting specifically. And third, ensure that customer service is up to par.
On top of that, be sure to understand the specific business needs, in terms of both costs and the necessary flexibility to accommodate for specific needs. Hiring is a major moment for every company, every time it happens, and it shouldn’t be overlooked, particularly in today’s times. Long says that perhaps the smallest of manufacturers would be able to get away easily without a talent management system, but only for so long. And anything bigger than a few dozen employees — or anyone who receives a heavy volume of applicants for every opening — should move sooner than later to get a talent management solution in place.
The truth is that amid the recession and in the years since, hiring has changed, particularly in the manufacturing sector. Amid the Great Recession, many companies worked hard to change their old ways in order to adapt to a new business reality, and hiring is currently undergoing a similar revolution. A talent management solution can help a company of any size take advantage of the small portion of hiring that’s within their reach, and in many cases, that’s more than enough.
ACCO Brands Corporation is one of the world's largest suppliers of branded office products. Learn more at www.accobrands.com. iCIMS is a web-based employment management system for HR and staffing professionals. Learn more at www.icims.com.