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Want to improve your talent pool? Invest meaningfully in your community

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 47 million Americans voluntarily left their jobs in 2021.

Many analyzes have surfaced regarding the impetus behind what many have called “the great resignation”, with some concluding that the pandemic is primarily at fault. However, comments were thin on what companies should do to prevent critical workers from leaving their teams to move forward.

The US manufacturing industry has certainly not been spared in terms of a substantial increase in the number of workers deciding to quit their jobs. With this retention problem showing no signs of going away anytime soon, leaders in America’s manufacturing industry need to work hard and creatively to rebuild their workforce in a sustainable way.

To do this, the first step is to consider implementing a mentoring system that will make employees feel both valued and invested. Here are some ways that American manufacturing companies can work to build a mentorship program in their workplace that will inspire employees to stick around and pass on their know-how to the next generation.

Create meaningful relationships with local institutions

Local institutions can help provide talent, especially local schools and technical colleges. Tech colleges already have students looking to get involved in some type of business, but manufacturing leaders should take the time to meet and get to know the teachers at the school or college, as these people can serve positive ambassadors for your company. Investing just a few hours a year of your time can pay dividends for years to come. Here are some effective ways to serve:

Volunteer for an advisory board in a related program or course. Many technical college programs have dedicated advisory boards made up of industry people who help keep courses current and relevant. Not only will you get to know the instructors and their program, but you will also be able to support them in more tangible ways, such as donating new equipment or providing additional funds to strengthen their technical infrastructure.

Sponsor scholarships. With a customized scholarship program, your company could motivate future hires based on specific criteria, whether it’s outstanding performance in technical courses, enthusiasm for the profession, or a genuine interest in working on the different projects of your company. Even a small scholarship of $5,000 to $10,000 could make a big difference to the selected candidate and provide current students with the flexibility to pursue part-time jobs and internships with your company that they might not have not had the bandwidth otherwise. Sponsoring a scholarship program further increases your company’s direct participation in local education programs, allowing you to have more points of contact with the workers of tomorrow.

Become an associate professor. You can be your own corporate ambassador by investing the time to teach an occasional class. Not only will students receive an outside lesson applicable to industry, but professors will also appreciate if your teaching complements their existing curriculum. As an Adjunct Professor, you can develop more meaningful relationships with students and effectively show what a day in the life of your company can offer them.

An even more forward-thinking solution would be to connect with these students before they choose a college. For example, recruiting and promoting the profession can begin at the high school level by offering part-time summer work programs where students can explore the possibilities of the profession with your company. In addition to arranging on-site training classes during their internship or work term, the management team may consider sponsoring night school or technical college programs if the student continues to work with the company. This can help increase the volume of students able to pursue post-secondary education in manufacturing and retain your company when looking for a job.

Build community loyalty

As mentioned, developing a meaningful mentorship program means connecting with potential candidates before they even start thinking about their careers. It can also mean meeting students where they are, outside of educational institutions.

Whether you’re staging a demonstration at local business symposia, contributing to charity, or helping with local projects, citizens are taking note of what their local businesses are doing for the community, which can elicit praise and , hopefully recommend the company as a great place to build a career.

A stark example of this comes from Coldspring, a manufacturer of natural stones and metals headquartered in Cold Spring, Minnesota. Coldspring recently saw a need in their community and jumped in to help. During the pandemic, a local high school was unable to hold graduation unless it was done outside. The granite and metal fabrication company stepped up and sponsored an upgraded outdoor facility with a large screen for the ceremony, building community loyalty and creating an essential memento for students who may decide to pursue a career at Coldspring in the future. .

Greg Flint, President and COO of Coldspring, says he has also built strong, long-term relationships with superintendents, principals and teachers at regional high schools and surrounding community/technical colleges. Coldspring regularly finds ways to bring in school administrators, students, and their parents to expose them to potential long-term career opportunities. For example, they sponsor local VEX Robotics teams and assist them in competition.

Think of employees in terms of decades, not years

Flint says Coldspring also thinks of its employees in terms of decades, not just short term. Of its approximately 750 employees, Coldspring has 250 employees who have spent 25 years or more with the company – that’s loyalty. Throughout these years, the company has helped many of its associates through professional and personal challenges, connecting with them as full human beings, as opposed to mere cogs in the machine. of the company. Research shows that employees who feel engaged not only tend to stay longer, but also perform better.

Manufacturing companies can also increase employee loyalty and satisfaction by taking the time to invest in ongoing training programs so that their team members have the opportunity to keep up with rapidly changing processes and technologies. industry.

Plus, they can consistently reinforce the culture by assigning internal mentors to junior team members and having candid conversations with their employees about where they see themselves in five, 10, or 15 years to build a formal plan for achieving each person’s unique goals.

It is now

American businesses across the country are still grappling with the issue of talent retention and simply cannot afford to wait for the government to come up with workable solutions. “Building a deep bench” is vitally important as baby boomers retire and new generations see a shift in work priorities.

The manufacturing sector recognized that it was difficult even before the pandemic to find and retain top talent, but implementing a culture of investment through investment in education, community outreach and internal employee mentoring programs will be a critical step to improving recruitment and retention.

Myron Moser is a member of the Strategic Advisory Board of business advisory group alliantgroup and Chairman Emeritus of Hartfiel Automation Inc. He is also Chairman of the Foundation Board of Hennepin Technical College, the largest technical college in the state of Minnesota.

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