Employer branding is crucial if manufacturing is to recruit the best talent

Tomorrow’s Engineers Week starts today and survey after survey spells out that manufacturing industry is struggling to recruit the best talent. The lure of tech, aerospace and automotive industries is strong; nearly 2/3 of graduate career seekers would prefer to work in those industries, according to the 2018 World’s Most Attractive Employer Survey from employer branding specialists, Universum.

Only 16% said they preferred to work in industrial engineering and manufacturing, meaning those firms are starting their recruitment from a pretty small pool.

So how should manufacturing businesses respond? What can less-than-glamorous engineering firms do to persuade good graduates to take a look at them? The survey gives some helpful tips.

  1. Offer Flexible Working

By some margin, both business and engineering/IT graduates put work-life balance at the top of their priorities. Generation Z is the first generation which has grown up understanding that technology allows people to work when and where they want.

  1. Be Purpose-Driven

For this generation, work-life balance is not just about working hard and having time outside work to pursue other interests. They want work to be integral to their life and that means finding purpose and meaning in work.

  1. Lead on Innovation

Of course, engineers are attracted by innovation. But companies can demonstrate innovation even if they are not at the glamour-end of technological and societal change. Look at packaging: environmental challenges have suddenly pushed the previously unregarded packaging technologist to the front pages of national news. Companies in this sector are crying out for fresh ideas to solve problems which were simply not even envisaged a few years ago and which, if not solved, might destroy their businesses altogether.

  1. Be seen to be doing these things

Employer branding need not be intensely complicated. Firms need to get visible for what they do and what they offer.

While fewer than 20% said they preferred to work in manufacturing, their choices when it came to choosing a particular employer they’d like to work for were particularly consistent. This indicates that strong Employer Branding is more important than the sector.

The vast majority of brands preferred were well-known, household names. It’s undoubtedly true that saying “I work for IKEA” or “Siemens” means more to friends and family than “I work for Acme Widgets Limited.”

But that’s not to say that Acme Widgets cannot make a play in the Employer Brand space. How?

Social Media is your shop window

Social media remains the top channel for prospects to hear about employer brands.

Universum’s information on the UK STEM market makes this clear: “Both business and STEM talent regularly use Facebook for both career and social purposes. Employers are clearly waking up to this trend as almost 60% of business and STEM talent have noticed information from employers through Facebook, while 38% of STEM talent are actively following employers on the online platform.”

Of course, as social channels prioritise private content over corporate content for organic reach, this means that companies are more likely to need paid promotions. However, excellent reach and influence can still be built through earned and shared content.

Engaging content is vital

All of the above means that the ability to cut through with interesting, engaging content is absolutely crucial to success. Smart companies recognise the need to avoid obviously selling the job via their posts. Rather they allow individual stories, focused more often than not on the themes illustrated in points 1, 2 and 3 above to provide a balanced approach to the online community.

Compelling and realistic employer branding

Employer branding needs to be compelling, inspiring and very human to appeal to Generation Z. It also needs to be realistic. These students are weighted down by large debts. They need housing. And enough money for a half-decent social life. So, their long-term values and aspirations do not always match their short-term priorities.

What they want to see is that the benefits you offer in the here and now are not at the expense of a better society tomorrow. If manufacturers’ employer brands can demonstrate how they meet both these goals, the sector has a chance to improve STEM graduate recruitment, create tomorrow’s engineers and raise that 16% employment preference to the levels it needs to thrive.

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