How Do You Attract a Younger Generation of Manufacturing Workers using Brand and Culture?

Manufacturers are facing an aging workforce where knowledge workers are walking out the door and there are thousands of jobs to fill. The data doesn’t lie – the median age of workers in manufacturing is 44 years old and less than 10% of the workforce is between the ages of 18-24. 

This topic is top-of-mind for many leaders and owners within manufacturing. Because of this, Spiracle Media, along with EO Charlotte, hosted a roundtable with owners and thought leaders within the industry to discuss the topic of using brand and culture to attract the younger generation. 

A Long-term issue with attracting talent

Manufacturing has always struggled to attract and retain the right talent to drive their operations. This, combined with younger generations entering the workforce – who are looking for longer careers with purpose and not just jobs – creates a perfect storm and a dilemma: “how do you show younger job seekers that there are strong and financially secure careers in manufacturing?”

“We struggle with recruiting younger ambitious talent and being able to market our culture and core values. We’ve had to use a lot of third parties because just posting something on LinkedIn or Indeed is just not working.” 

– Jenny Miller, Co-owner/CEO and President, Threadline Products, Inc. 

In small to mid-size manufacturing companies the recruitment of new hires typically falls on the shoulders of the CEO or COO. This can be positive because the CEO/COO is typically the person who is working to drive the culture of the organization. The negative, though, is that it takes time away from running the business and pushing it forward strategically – sometimes having leaders screen thousands of resumes to hire 20-30 employees. 

“We changed how we communicate in our ads. We post our core values and say this is what your career will look like. Do you identify as this type of person? They have to self elect and identify themselves as wanting to be part of our company. That’s dramatically changed our ability to get resumes and hire.” 

-Joshua Tarbutton, Founder and CEO, Bravo Team 

Showcasing these core values and the people behind your brand has shown significant impact for the companies in our roundtable discussion. 

Jenny Miller + Joshua Tarbutton
Joshua Tarbutton

Your culture front and center

The term employer brand has been around for the last several years, but what does it really mean? It means illustrating and bringing to life what people are going to get out of their journey with you. It’s bringing your culture, company and core values to life. 

“In a tight labor market, differentiating your company and what you stand for is so critically important. We’re competing with places like Hobby Lobby and Amazon who are paying $18/hour. How do you compete with that? … We sat down and wrote out all the things that a potential employee would gain from being with us. We created a culture document and listed things we do in our plant like breakfast every Friday or PTO for hourly workers. We had to be more dialed in to be able to compete against the larger players ” 

– Sahaj Patel, President, Triton Glass 

Video and social media delivers impact

A strong channel to show your employer brand to potential candidates is obviously social media. When looking to attract talent through social media the most critical thing is understanding where the talent sits, what social platforms they frequent and the messaging they’re expecting to see and will likely engage with. 

95% of a brand’s message is retained by watching video compared to 10% for only text. On top of that, 91% of people prefer video content online over other forms of content. 

“It’s important to choose the right partner. You’re not in the business to do videos. You’re in the business to manufacture what you manufacture. But when you can partner with the right individuals who can get you and be able to use their skills to convey that to the public and potential employees I think is really powerful” 

– Scott Peterson, Chief Partnership Officer, Spiracle 

Finding the right partner is great, but what types of stories do you tell? If you are too corporate and too polished the younger generation of workers are turned off by that. They don’t want slick, they want real. Think of videos they engage with on a day to day basis on TikTok, Instagram and other platforms. 

“We’ve done both. We’ve had really amazing videos that are more informational, trying to communicate more about us and our culture and then we have the day-to-day ones. But what I’ve noticed is when we video a close up of metal fabrication, using a threader, and show the details people get fascinated by that.” 

– Jenny Miller, Co-owner/CEO and President, Threadline Products, Inc.  

Sahaj Patel
Scott Peterson

Manufacturing is like magic 

Manufacturing has so many great stories to tell. It’s a critical industry that everyone knows is there, but doesn’t necessarily know the impact manufacturers make on our day to day lives. When the lines are running, sparks are flying and chips are coming off the line it truly is pure magic.

“By 2030 there will be over 2 million unfilled manufacturing jobs. And there’s this prevailing thought out there that manufacturers need to change the perception with younger workers of what manufacturing is. So, you’re talking about magic. You’re talking about how do you build a career which is very different than here’s a job that we have and here’s the job description. It’s about tapping into a story and a bigger purpose.” 

– Mark Weber, Managing Partner, Co-Founder and Owner, Croixstone Consulting

The art of recruiting talent comes then from connecting these dots for the job seeker and showing the end result of what that company does. The problem with many manufacturers though is that their products or the work they do is proprietary or things they can’t necessarily shout from the rooftops to the markets they work and recruit in. 

“It’s a big problem for us. We have a channel on Slack which is called Win Together – one of our core values. When anybody gets something to a major milestone or something cool, then they’ll post a video internally. I would love nothing more to share this. I can’t though, because often what we’re doing hasn’t been patented yet or is a trade secret.” 

– Joshua Tarbutton, Founder and CEO, Bravo Team

There are opportunities, as discussed within the group, to share the larger story through creative storytelling – how does what you do touch someone’s life from the minute they wake up until the minute they end their day? Not focusing on the actual equipment or thing being created. 

Recruitment is marketing (they’re the same)

Just like you would market to different segments of clients in different ways you have to think of recruitment the same way – think of the segments of talent you’re looking to hire and what channels and messaging make the most sense to them.

“I see more and more companies who say the art of recruiting needs to be understood as a deep area of specialization within our company and not an add-on task for human resources. Especially with the systemic type labor market we have, we have to think about the art of recruiting in a different way.” 

– Mark Weber, Managing Partner, Co-Founder and Owner, Croixstone Consulting

So how does this come into practice in the day to day recruitment of manufacturers? 

“We have to shift. When we’re hiring for back of house manufacturing it is a completely different field than if I’m going and trying to get a new salesperson. When I’m doing marketing, I have a very specific target audience and target business. I define all of those. We don’t do that when we’re talking about recruiting and why not?” 

– Jenny Miller, Co-owner/CEO and President, Threadline Products, Inc. 

Marketers are specialized in understanding their specific industries and the buyer personas within those segments, then crafting the specific message they know will resonate and convert with that industry and buyer. We can take this same exact approach with who and how we message when we’re recruiting. You’re having to sell who you are, sell your value and culture so that a new person wants to join your company. 

Being the leader of a manufacturing company, either big or small, comes with a lot of challenges, but what core headline came out of the discussion with these leaders was having a level of thought and intentionality into sharing your employer brand (culture and values) and how you are positioning your message in front of the right audience and talent is key to ultimately bring them into your organization and drive your business forward.

Mark Weber



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