Take a page from the social media playbook to appeal to the next generation.

Hiring is hard. There are labor shortages throughout the country, and manufacturing is bearing the brunt. Other industries, like healthcare, retail, and tech, seem to be having an easier time –but why? My guess: Manufacturing isn’t nearly as easy to see.

According to a recent report, Gen Z most wants to work at places like St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Target Corp, and Spotify. Those are big companies with great reputations and large marketing budgets, and they’re extremely visible.

Because these companies are B2C, they have an easier time being top-of-mind, but that doesn’t mean manufacturing and other B2B companies are doomed to obscurity. Here’s where thinking like an influencer can help. I’m not saying you need to start a TikTok and choreograph the second shift packaging techs, but you can use social media best practices to exert some influence over your recruiting process.

Show Some Personality

B2B companies don’t have to be boring. Corporate communication doesn’t have to sound corporate – it doesn’t have to use jargon or abstract language and sound exactly the same as every other company in the industry. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. One of the easiest ways to draw attention to your company is to show some personality.

If you scroll through some of the top corporate Instagram accounts in the industry, you’ll see people – not just slogans. Case in point: Northrup Grumman has a series showing ‘ordinary’ moments in their employees’ day-to-day. Here’s one about lunch breaks and another about airline puns. These are fun, light-hearted, and non-boring. They don’t feel corporate.

These examples have very high production value, but you don’t need a seven-figure marketing budget to bring your personality across. Hartung Glass Industries, a company that’s, ahem, a bit smaller than Northrup Grumman, also breaks out of the strict corporate-Instagram template to show that its employees are more than just cogs in the machine.

Go Behind-the-Scenes

One thing about Instagram influencers – whether it’s twisting themselves into unimaginable yoga poses or driving across the Pacific Northwest in a renovated VW camper van, they do Insta-worthy things. Maybe you manufacture camper vans, or maybe not – regardless, you can bring your followers (read: potential candidates) along on the ride.

Show what you produce and how it’s made; people love to peek behind the curtain. Feature your end-product, show how it travels down the assembly line, and show all of the behind-the-scenes people and the processes that make it possible. Show the QA team. Show the Accounting department. Show everything and everyone that makes your product possible, not just the cool fast-motion video of your product traveling around the factory on conveyor belts. Give potential candidates a sneak preview of what they can expect to be a part of.

Use Your Platform

Social media influencers always seem to have a ‘hot take’ on the issue of the day. While I’m not advocating that you devote space on your corporate account to political memes, it’s worth noting that employees, especially younger ones, care about issues. According to Randstad’s 2022 Workmonitor survey, “employees want organizational values to align with their personal ones.”

This one can get tricky, but authenticity is key. Organizations do have values – not necessarily political stances, but guiding principles that shape company culture and play out in employee experience. If you don’t know what your organization’s values are, do some soul-searching and some articulation. If you do know what your company values, put it on your platform. Gen Z, especially, will be looking for it.

Know Your Audience(s)

Social media influencers know their audience, and they tailor their messages. Admittedly, they often have an easier time – they aren’t trying to appeal to everybody all at once. Companies these days – across all industries – find themselves with several distinct audiences. Depending on how you define them, you might have four – or even five – generations in your workforce, each with different experiences, expectations, perceptions, and values.

Companies find themselves trying to do multiple things at once: Capture knowledge from retiring Baby Boomers, retain Gen X employees, provide Millennials with career progression, recruit Gen Z, and maybe lay the groundwork for getting Gen Alpha excited about industry. These all require different approaches. Figure out who your audiences are – both internally and externally, i.e., current employees and potential recruits – and tailor multiple messages to appeal to each group.

To improve your recruitment, think like an influencer. There’s a growing group on LinkedIn, like Mavens of Manufacturing, that you can use for inspiration. Take a page from their playbook by showing some personality, going behind the scenes, using your platform, and knowing your audiences. You’ll make your company more visible – and more attractive – to the next generation. 

Megan Preston Meyer, Industry Today
Megan Preston Meyer

About the Author:
Megan Preston Meyer spent more than 10 years working in supply chain and analytics; now she focuses on the stories that data
doesn’t tell. She’s the author of the Adventures of Supply Jane & Fifo, a series of picture books that teach kids about supply chain and logistics principles, and she helps B2B clients make sure their messaging is authentic, well-crafted, and non-boring.

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