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Strategies for Finding Skilled Metalworkers

Grainger Editorial Staff

Concerned about the lack of skilled labor, metalworking companies can use these five strategies to start filling their new employee pipelines today. 

As the current labor force moves closer to retirement, there's strong concern about finding people with appropriate skills to do the work. Fewer people are entering the industrial workforce, so finding qualified and competent labor is difficult. Additionally, the costs of labor are a concern, whether it be insurance coverage or wages. According to Grainger’s new Metalworking Trends survey, 59% of metalworking companies are having a hard time finding and keeping qualified labor, and 45% are struggling with employee competency levels.

Metalworking organizations are using creative tactics to offset these labor-related issues. For example, 58% of metalworking companies have employee development programs that are focused on creating employee recruitment, development, and training programs—all of which they expect to become even more important in the future. Currently, 38% of companies use manager/supervisor training; 28% are using employee bonuses or profit sharing; and 28% are adding staff. Other effective strategies include the development of apprenticeship programs (21% are using them), college/tech school partnerships (21%), and staff reduction (17%).

Here are five more ways companies can effectively solve their labor-related issues in today’s job market:

  1. Leverage your own staff. “By implementing referral programs, your workforce can come together to source candidates for you,” Steven Jarrett, Ph.D., writes in 3 Strategies to Hire Quality Employees in a Tight Labor Market, noting that many firms already have referral programs that use incentives, but that the approach can work without incentives, too. “I work with a large auto-manufacturing organization in the Midwest that asked each employee to refer one employee, with no incentives involved,” he writes, “and this generated 500 applicants in three days!”
  2. Use an efficient pre-hiring processes. According to Jarrett, the average time to hire in manufacturing is 24 days. Metalworking companies can whittle this window down by using an automated, unproctored assessment at the first step of the application process. “This assessment screens out candidates who don't meet your requirements,” he writes, “leaving only the qualified candidates to move on to an interview.”
  3. Focus on fit. Citing a recent Korn Ferry survey, EBN says employees leave because their specific roles weren’t what was expected and because working for the company was different from what they thought it would be. “Study after study shows that a culture fit between employee and company is critical,” Korn Ferry’s Samantha Wallace told EBN. “It’s hard to fully gauge if a candidate will fit simply by interviewing him or her a couple times. We assess candidates not only on what they know or do, but how they work.”
  4. Use multiple mediums to spread your message. It’s time to go beyond the job board. “These titans of recruiting technology are essential, but they also limit your access to only those candidates actively seeking positions,” Hire Velocity points out. “Spread your message with social media, referrals, personal connections, general networking, and any other channels you have at your disposal.” Try sites like Stack Overflow (for techies) or Quora (for just about any industry), both of which serve as online gathering places where people can discuss interesting questions or network with others in their field. “They’re also excellent places to find candidates,” the company points out.
  5. Reduce employee turnover. “With vacant positions, your remaining employees are more stressed. Instead of helping those poor people, you’re spending time covering for the workers who quit last week,” Bill Conerly writes in Leadership in Today's Tight Labor Market: Reduce Employee Turnover. To protect what you’ve got, he tells companies to spend more time with their current employees and ensure high levels of managerial attention. “Tell the employees they are valuable. Offer feedback on how they are doing. Very few employees get enough feedback, and it really helps with retention.”

It’s Time to Act  

Operating in a healthy economy where more workers are retiring just as fewer candidates are interested in industrial jobs, metalworking companies can’t afford to overlook the need for strong recruiting, hiring, and retention strategies. Over the next three years, there will be significant workforce shifts as more laborers retire, a trend that will make finding and developing new employees even more challenging in the future—and perhaps even more critical—as it is today.

Learn more about Metalworking Today: A 2018 Grainger Industry Report here.

The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.

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