How to attract manufacturing leaders in a skills-short market

The last couple of years has had a transformational impact on the food industry. Issues with company lockdowns and reduced budgets led to a massive turnover. People started rethinking their career plans, and priorities evolved.

A state of global uncertainty prompted a significant shift in the attitude towards the workplace, and new trends began to emerge among employees from every industry.

Today's manufacturing leaders are more discerning about where and who they work with. Around 71% of staff say they leave a role mainly because of lousy culture or poor management.

The most talented people in your team are no longer willing to settle for anything less than the best.

Even though the storms in the recruitment market are beginning to settle, the influence of the Great Resignation remains strong. We're seeing ongoing demand for companies to rethink their hiring and recruitment strategy for a new age of work.

In this guide, we'll be looking at the steps companies will need to take to ensure they can continue to attract and hire food manufacturing leaders in a disruptive and unpredictable landscape.

Start Identifying Your Ideal Manufacturing Leaders

The first step in successful recruitment is understanding precisely what you need. Countless companies mistake talking to recruiters like ourselves about wanting to recruit "Superstars" and "Rockstars" in their field before fully defining what they need.

It's crucial to be as detailed and specific as possible when identifying your ideal manufacturing leaders. These employees have the power to transform and augment your company in a range of different ways. Not only will they make a significant difference to the success of essential projects and tasks, but they'll also be responsible for leading, motivating, and guiding the rest of your team.

The Characteristics of Great Manufacturing Leaders

Consistent research reveals that 75% of workers who voluntarily leave their jobs do so because of their bosses – not the position or role. Failing to recruit the right leader from day one could mean you risk having to replace not just your senior staff member but all the employees they drive away to.

Alternatively, choose the right leaders for your manufacturing team, and you could benefit from higher levels of motivation, reduced turnover, and better business outcomes.

While the exact characteristics you need to look for in your leader will depend on the role you're trying to fill, the following features are crucial for all effective managers, supervisors, and motivational staff members:

Vision and Adaptability

The first thing any business leader needs to thrive is a clear vision for your team and your company. They should understand exactly what goals your organisation is trying to achieve and what kind of path they need to follow to see results. However, in today's transformative landscape, it's also essential for leaders to be able to pivot and adapt their strategies quickly to achieve a goal.

A great manufacturing leader will always keep your company's values and mission in mind while remaining open to new ideas and adaptable in times of transformation.

An excellent way to test for vision and adaptability is to ask your leader how they believe they'll be able to help your company achieve specific goals.

Clear Communicators

Communication skills are admittedly crucial to every position in a business. However, they can be essential for leaders. At all levels, leaders must communicate messages clearly, in a language their audience can understand.

Your food leaders may need to be able to connect with shareholders regularly and get their buy-in for specific business strategies.

They'll also need to regularly communicate with employees and keep team members engaged and informed wherever they are. Increasingly, maintaining strong communication is beginning to evolve through various tools, from video conferencing apps to collaboration software.

Impactful Influencers

Communicating with the right people in a team effectively is one thing, but leaders also need to be able to convince the people they connect with to do specific things. A good manufacturing leader will be inspiring, persuasive, and data-driven.

They'll know how to gather the correct information before a presentation to shareholders to make their argument as compelling as possible. A good leader will also learn to assess the most important motivating factors driving your team and use them to encourage action.

Influential leaders can rally an entire team behind a cause and keep your employees focused, even during confusion and disruption. An excellent way to test the influence of your potential team leaders is to ask them to describe a time when they inspired, motivated, or persuaded a team to do something which led to positive outcomes.

Decision-Making Based On Data

Most of us make daily decisions, from which tasks to do when we sit down at our desk to when to take a lunch break in a flexible office. However, leaders make choices more often than most, and their decisions significantly impact the broader food company.

When you are looking for leaders for your team, it's essential to look for people who feel comfortable making decisions quickly and accurately with access to the correct information.

Look for people with an analytical approach to making complex choices. The best leaders should be able to research and build a case for their decision based on the information they find. Asking applicants to discuss difficult decisions they made in their past roles and how they arrived at their choices can be helpful here.

Problem Solving Skills

No matter how streamlined and efficient your food manufacturing business is, most of the time, there will always be problems to overcome.

Some simple issues, like re-arranging a team's schedule when someone calls in sick. Others are far more complex, like deciding how to organise your team when a Global pandemic causes you to shut down the office.

Great leaders should be able to face problems head-on and look for creative solutions to overcome them. While leaders might not have answers to every issue independently, they'll feel confident seeking guidance, doing their research, and presenting optional routes to consider.

Make Your Business More Attractive to Food Leaders

Once you've decided on the critical characteristics of your food leaders, the next step is making your business more attractive to the candidates you want to reach.

Recent studies show that the priorities and expectations of industry leaders are changing due to the pandemic. In fact, according to the LinkedIn Work trends report, employees are entirely rethinking their needs and relationships with employers.

To appeal to the most attractive leaders in your sector, you'll need to build an employer brand that emphasises the crucial things your candidates want.

Building an Employer Brand

Most experts agree that excellent remuneration and benefits packages aren't enough to impress candidates alone. Companies need to fine-tune, or completely overhaul their company culture, to meet the rising demand for empathy, inclusion, and equity.

Working on your employer brand means building an image (both online and offline) that makes you more attractive to active and passive candidates.

72% of recruitment leaders agree that a compelling employer brand directly impacts hiring success. Look at companies like Apple and Netflix; they all have attractive brands that appeal to customers and make candidates want to join their team.

For a successful employer brand, you'll need:

An online presence: When we talk to candidates about a role with your company, more candidates than ever will check you out online before the conversation moves on. Your company should have a robust and attractive website where you can share information about your values, highlight employee growth opportunities, and advertise new roles. It's also good to be active on social media, where you can interact with candidates through channels like LinkedIn.

Brand guidelines: Candidates should have a consistent experience of your brand wherever they interact with it. A set of brand guidelines will show your recruiters, and hiring managers, precisely which values they should highlight when interacting with recruits. Use your brand guidelines to showcase your company's mission and provide an insight into how your business makes the world a better place.

A firm voice: Your voice comprises all the reviews left by your employees (past and present), the content your leaders share on social media, the job descriptions you post, and the speeches you give at industry events. It should help your candidates to understand what your business stands for. Ensure your voice is clear, and your language speaks to your target candidates.

Know What Food Leaders Are Looking For

While a great leader still wants to receive the proper income to match their talent, you need to offer a lot more than the right salary to stand out in today's skills-short market. As mentioned above, employee priorities are changing in the manufacturing space, and appealing to the suitable candidates means knowing what your people want.

Some of the most significant factors driving leaders to accept job offers include:

Flexibility: One-size-fits-all job opportunities are becoming less attractive in today's digital world. Employees want flexibility in how, when, and where they work. Where possible, offering your manufacturing leaders the freedom to work remotely at times or even reduce their hours to a four-day work week can make your jobs instantly more attractive. Flex work can significantly reduce employee stress and make your team members 2.6 times happier in their role, according to LinkedIn.

Wellbeing: A focus on better wellbeing in the workplace is growing significantly. Employees want companies who treat them like human beings, which means understanding their limitations and health requirements. Even your food leaders need care, compassion, and trust. Show your willingness to embrace better wellbeing by posting stories about your mental health policy on your website or asking team members to write stories about how they feel cared for at work. Well-being strategies can make employees up to 3.2 times happier in the workplace and 3.7 times more likely to recommend working for a brand.

Growth: A desire for growth and purpose has always been strong among food manufacturing leaders. More than ever, your team members want to see a secure future with your brand. With this in mind, it's worth showing your team members how much you're willing to invest in them. Providing access to training opportunities for leadership professionals and even sending them to events for networking experiences can be a great way to show your commitment to growth.

If you're not sure exactly which factors matter most to your manufacturing leaders, consider asking existing supervisors and managers what they would appreciate most in their jobs.

Upgrade Your Food Recruitment Strategy

The evolution of the workplace and hiring world in the last couple of years has meant many old-fashioned recruitment plans are quickly growing outdated. Posting a job ad on a single forum and hoping for the best is a thing of the past.

Today's food manufacturers must invest in a focused, intelligent, digitally-charged recruitment strategy to generate the best results. A key driver today is to look for a diverse team.

Prioritise Diversity

Standing out in a competitive hiring landscape means ensuring you have a firm plan for diversity, equity, and inclusion. This strategy should begin with the hiring process. Working with a specialist food manufacturing recruiter will allow you to attract candidates from a broader range of environments.

A specialist recruitment company can help you utilise niche job boards, post your jobs on social media, and even connect with new graduates from the educational landscape. It's also essential to ensure you don't let bias get in the way of who you pick to move to the next stage in the interview process. Your recruiter can help by sorting through your applicants on your behalf.

Create a Long-Term Talent Pipeline

Reactive recruitment strategies are rarely the best choice in today's fast-paced market. Food manufacturers need to constantly access a stream of people with leadership skills to quickly fill the gaps in their team.

Think about the significant leaders in your business your company would be lost without, and start building a talent pipeline with your recruiter to keep more people with the same talents waiting in the wings. It's also worth expanding your pipeline to include people with skills you don't need now but might want to embrace in the future.

The easiest way to do this, is to work with a food recruitment specialist.

Though we are in a skill-short market, recruitment partners like ourselves already have a broad network of candidate connections we cultivate daily.

Because of this, we can help you fill talent gaps faster and guide you every step.

Enhance the Interview Process

Once you've successfully upgraded your recruitment and hiring strategy, the next stage is getting the interview right. Interviews are one of the most critical stages in the recruitment journey, as they can make or break whether your candidate decides to join your team. Skilled professionals are 39% less likely to take a role if the interview experience is poor.

Start by speaking to your recruitment team about the questions you should ask and the processes you should use during the interview.

Competency-based interviews are often an excellent way to ensure your leaders have the skills you've identified as crucial to your role.

These involve asking questions like:

• Tell us about a time when you had to lead a team through a difficult task. How did you handle the challenges, and were you successful?

• Give us an example of a situation where you faced an unexpected setback. How did you deal with the problem?

• Tell me about a time when you had to inspire and motivate your team. What did you do to engage your people, and what were the results?

Making Interviews Future-Ready

Aside from asking the right questions, you can also improve your chances of success by creating a strategy for how you will make effective hiring decisions. Whether you're using ATS equipment or not, you need to make interviewing a more data-driven process.

Create a list of potential "scores" for the answers your employees can give, so you can assign numbers to their responses and make it easier to define which candidates meet your needs later on. Using the same strategic questions in your interview with every candidate is also worth effectively comparing manufacturing leaders.

As well as standardising and scoring interview questions, it's also worth thinking about how you can make your interviews more efficient and future-proof. For instance:

• Use virtual interviews: Video interviews, online tests, and phone conversations make it easier to assess a candidate for a remote or hybrid role at a distance.

• Train your interviewing teams: Provide training for hiring managers and other experts to help them make better decisions.

• Collect feedback: Curate feedback from your candidates to find out what they liked and disliked about the interview process.

Set Your Food Leaders Up for Success

The challenges of finding and recruiting the best manufacturing leaders today don't stop when someone accepts your job offer. It would help if you also considered how you would welcome your employees into the team and set them up for success in their new roles.

When employee turnover is higher than ever, and there are permanent new jobs for leaders to switch to if they're not happy with your team, make sure you master the onboarding process.

Your recruitment experts should be able to advise on what the onboarding process should include, but some great ways to get started include:

Using preboarding techniques: Preboarding involves immediately introducing your new food leader to their colleagues, welcoming the team, and giving them an overview of what to expect when they accept your job offer. This process can help make your new staff feel more accepted immediately.

Customising the onboarding process: Customising the onboarding process to the exact needs of each leader is essential. Think about exactly which information your leader will need to get up and running, and try to avoid overwhelming them with details not specific to their job. A more streamlined onboarding process personalised to your staff member will help them feel more prepared to thrive in their role.

Prioritise inclusion: Around 64% of employees say diversity and inclusion are crucial considerations when deciding which jobs they want. With this in mind, try to make your employee feel as included as possible. Welcome them into team meetings immediately, and look for opportunities to build bonds between new and existing staff members. Even if your team members are working remotely, they should feel like one of the family.

Plan for the future: Sit down with your new manufacturing leader early into the onboarding process, and ask them about their goals. Talk about the skills your team members want to improve and look for ways you can help them reach their targets. Regular meetings where you can discuss your leader's progress will help them see a future in your company and show you're invested in their growth.

Remember, regularly collecting feedback from your leader on what they feel you can do to improve their work-life can also be a great way to boost retention.

Find Your New Manufacturing Leaders

The recruitment landscape has been moving through a difficult period of transformation for the last couple of years. Manufacturing leaders are harder to find than ever in a marketplace where turnover is high and employee expectations are changing.

If you want to ensure you're attracting, hiring, and retaining the right people to help your business grow, you'll need to implement the right strategy. The steps above will give you several crucial tools to boost your brand appearance, seek out the right employees, and convince them to join your team.

Of course, the best way to upgrade the hiring process and improve your chances of getting a suitable hire is with support from a specialist recruiter. A food manufacturing recruiter can keep you one step ahead of the competition in the search for talent and help you to build a pipeline so you never run out of excellent candidates to add to your team.

What's more, with a manufacturing recruiter, you can get guidance from making your interviews more effective to write the best job descriptions.

If you need help getting the best leaders for your team in the new recruitment age, reach out today to Food Recruit to start your recruitment revolution.

By Scott Williams

I’m an independent owner of Food Recruit - Search & Selection.

Passionate about the Food Manufacturing industry, having spent time as a Supply Chain Manager and Business Development Manager for two of the UK’s largest meat importers.

High Care, Low Care, Chilled and Ambient I have worked across all markets, including B2B, Foodservice, Wholesale and Retail.

I fell into recruitment in 2016 to start a Food & Drink desk in a long-standing Engineering Recruitment business in the West Midlands.

Progressing on to Business Development Manager, covering multiple markets before starting my agency in September 2020.

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