Author: Ann Franz Date: 12/12/2018

6 Best Practices in Recruiting a Manufacturing Workforce

These days, it seems as though there are “Now Hiring” signs everywhere you go. The unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in nearly 50 years. According to the 2018 Northeast Wisconsin Manufacturing Vitality Index survey, 88% of manufacturers say they’re having a hard time finding talent, compared to only 29% in 2011. In this competitive climate, finding top talent can be challenging. You’re not the only employer out there trying to recruit quality workers…so how do you make yourself stand out as one of the best? Here are some tips for recruiting and retaining the best manufacturing employees:

Youth apprentices and internships
As baby boomers continue to retire at a rapid rate, it’s increasingly important to recruit and retain younger workers who are at the beginning of their careers. A great way to do this is to bring on youth apprentices and/or interns. We’re seeing more companies working with area high school youth apprenticeship programs than ever before. This can be a great opportunity for both the student and employer; the student learns valuable job and life skills and, if it’s a good fit, can stay on board and be guaranteed a job after graduation.

We also encourage local companies we work with to participate in our college Internship Draft Day. This is an event we hold annually at Lambeau Field. Students are bussed in from colleges in Wisconsin and Michigan and have the opportunity to interview with up to six different employers. During the event, students earn points based on how well they interview, and at the end of the event Green Bay Packer President Mark Murphy announces the “number one draft pick” from each school. While it’s a fun, competitive event, it’s also a great way for companies to connect with motivated young talent. The top overall draft picks also receive college scholarships.

Evaluate your application process
Is your application process unnecessarily complicated? Are you using software to screen applications? If so, you could be losing potential candidates before they even walk in your door. In a competitive marketplace it’s important to have a streamlined application process and to follow up with applicants as soon as possible. If you have a lengthy hiring process, you could be losing applicants to your competitor down the road who responds to applications quickly. Strive to follow up with applicants within 24 hours, if at all possible.

Referral incentives
While not a new concept, employers are beginning to see greater value in offering employer referral incentives. A recent study found that 46% of referred employees stay at a job for three years or more, compared to only 14% who are hired from job boards. Your current employees can be your best recruiters because they know the company well, and know what it takes to succeed. Therefore, the candidates they refer are more likely to have the skills and personality needed to be a good fit. Also, most employees will not refer someone who will reflect poorly on them.

Social media
In the 21st century, it’s extremely important to have a strong social media presence, both with your overall branding message and your specific recruiting efforts. Strive to show your followers that you’re an employer of choice. You not only want to be selling your company to potential customers, you also want to show that your company is a great place to work. Balance your promotional posts with a healthy mix of “culture” posts that show employees volunteering in the community, participating in team building and having fun on the job. Social media is shown to be the primary way 19-30 year olds get their news and local community information, so make sure to be there when they are.

Utilize area job centers
Make sure information is kept up to date at your local job centers. Job Center of Wisconsin is a website where companies can post their job listings at no cost, so make sure you’re taking advantage of this tool. These resources are often the first place potential employees look when they’re starting a job search, so it’s important that you’re visible. You can even talk with job centers in your area about setting up a mini job fair right at the office. 

Work/life balance
As the next generation enters the workforce, there’s a greater emphasis on work/life balance than ever before. While manufacturing may not have as much wiggle room as other industries when it comes to flexible scheduling, there are still things you may want to consider as you try to catch the attention of younger workers. Some companies are starting to change to four-day work weeks, where employees would work four 12 hour days, then have three off. Another thing to consider is offering flexible scheduling so employees are able to attend school events for their children, or fit in a doctor appointment. 

Finding top talent might seem like a battle these days, but if you have a strong brand, great culture and competitive benefits, the right talent will find you. The Northeast Wisconsin Manufacturing Alliance (NEWMA) is a great resource for assisting with finding top talent; visit our website at There, you’ll join other manufacturers from throughout the region in solving the skills shortage. By working together, we’ll attain the organization’s vision statement that “Every northeast Wisconsin manufacturer will find the talent it needs.”

Guide To Choosing A Business Bank For Manufacturers

Topics: Business Growth, General Business


Written by Ann Franz

Ann Franz is the executive director of the Northeast Wisconsin Manufacturing Alliance. She has led the organization, since its inception in 2006. The over 260 members, mostly manufacturers employ 37 percent of the entire workforce in the region. The NEW Manufacturing Alliance has been recognized nationally and internationally as a best practice in public/private partnerships. Mrs. Franz has presented at conferences throughout the on how to develop and grow industry sector partnerships. She also spoke at an international conference in Italy on sector Alliances. The Alliance has received both state and international awards including from the Department of Public Instruction, ACTE’s Business & Education Partnership award and Frost & Sullivan’s Manufacturing Leadership Council’s Talent Management award. Ms. Franz earned her Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh and her Bachelor of Science degree in Public Relations from Northern Michigan University. She is on the Wisconsin’s Governor’s Council on Workforce Investment, Greater Green Bay Chamber of Commerce’s Partners in Education Board, Wisconsin Technology Education Association Advisory Board, and served as the Vice Chair of the National Shipbuilding Research Program’s Workforce Development Panel.


Back To Blog Home

Views provided in this blog are general in nature for your consideration and are not legal, tax, or investment advice. Investors Community Bank (ICB) makes no warranties as to accuracy or completeness of information, including but not limited to information provided by third parties, does not endorse any non-ICB companies, products, or services described here, and takes no liability for your use of this information. Information and suggestions regarding business risk management and safeguards do not necessarily represent ICB’s business practices or experience. Please contact your own legal, tax, or financial advisors regarding your specific business needs before taking any action based upon this information.