May 6, 2019

Dr. Greg Barnett, SVP of Science at The Predictive Index

Hiring managers in the manufacturing and logistics industries share a common problem: there’s not enough skilled labor to go around. In a perfect world, recruiters and hiring managers would have an abundance of qualified job candidates with appropriate experience to choose from, but in today’s labor market, talent acquisition requires a bit of ingenuity.

The old way of hiring for skills alone is not a recipe for success. When companies focus on hiring for skills, this typically means hard skills, or “technical” abilities that are teachable. Unfortunately, stopping there and hiring the first person with adequate on-the-job experience could cause hiring managers to overlook better and more well-rounded candidates—resulting in a revolving door of new staff entering and exiting the organization.

The Current State of Manufacturing and Logistics

Before identifying the ideal candidate, it’s important to analyze why the talent pool is shrinking for these industries. A major problem is that Millenial and Gen-Z laborers entering the workforce are often overlooking these industries as viable career paths due to the perception that jobs in these fields aren’t fulfilling.

This pervasive view is emphasized by the weight society has placed on the experience-based economy. Research shows that as a society, we spend four times more on experiences than goods—with millennials leading the trend—and the mindset extends into how and where we choose to work. Companies that invest in the employee experience, beginning as early as the candidate experience, are four times more likely to retain top performers. With this in mind, the manufacturing and logistics fields must make changes to what is largely viewed as industries wrought with bleak experiences, e.g., long hours, little time with family, and low compensation.

Organizations must spend time identifying what drives employees and what decreases turnover. Focusing on ways to make job offerings more attractive while boosting company culture is a sure way to set companies up for long term success. For instance, logistics jobs are often seen as lonely, solitary activities, with truck drivers largely confined to their vehicles. A trucking company could focus on experiences to ease the solitude—for example, enrolling drivers in online education programs and paying for music and podcast subscriptions. Similarly, manufacturing is often seen as an industry with few developmental opportunities and little upward mobility. Complimentary trainings and ongoing educational opportunities that offer a specific path to advancement may help to increase the employee experience. As technology becomes more advanced, making sure employees know they have a place in their company and involving them in decisions impacting the future business allows them to build value.

Organizations that fully understand the employee experience and company culture truly maximize the potential of the workforce. Employees who don’t identify with their company culture are less engaged and less productive. Diverse teams are more creative and innovative, so companies should look for people who will contribute to, and shape, the culture positively. By addressing the employee experience and changing the culture to one that places employees at the forefront of business decisions, organizations will drive people to put their hearts into their work which will gradually change the perception of these industries for the better.

Hire for Behaviors and Train for Skills

Once job offerings and culture are adjusted, it’s time to roll out new hiring practices, and start evaluating prospective employees based on their behavioral tendencies and cognitive ability. High cognitive ability directly translates to learning speed and is the strongest predictor of job performance. This is especially important in the manufacturing field where new technologies are constantly being implemented to increase the speed and precision of machinery. The gap between the most knowledgeable employees and new hires can close faster if people are hired based on the time it will take them to learn new skills, rather than whether they have the skills from the start.

To complement new hiring practices, current employees should also be assessed across all levels and adjustments should be made to meet the new talent and culture strategy. Placing existing employees in new or updated positions that utilize the full spectrum of their strengths allows for holes in the organization to be identified and filled. This not only creates career paths that were previously inaccessible but it also allows all employees to discover and hone their passions.

Beginning with this talent optimization strategy allows organizations to align their people strategy with their business strategy to achieve optimal business results. Addressing staffing issues requires a holistic approach from the whole organization that starts with changing company image, followed by measuring and diagnosing misalignment internally, and ends with improved hiring practices and leadership development. This strategy will see natural benefits across the organization from improved company culture to a staff that feels more valued and inspired by their work resulting in decreased turnover and increased employee retention.

Greg Barnett The Predictive Index, Industry TodayGreg Barnett is the Senior Vice President of Science at The Predictive Index, the leader in talent optimization, where he oversees the execution of the company’s science agenda, including talent analytics, employee assessments, employee surveys, psychometrics, machine learning, natural language processing, and talent optimization data science.

Greg is a frequent writer and presenter, specializing in the areas of engagement, leadership, organizational culture, employee selection, high-potential identification, and managerial derailment. Greg holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in Industrial-Organizational Psychology from the University of Tulsa, and a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Colorado.


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