“Britain’s manufacturers are facing the biggest shortage of skilled workers since 1989”

British Chambers of Commerce survey reported in the Guardian

As the Guardian article makes clear, the service sector is also suffering from a contraction in the availability of skilled workers.

When I read this article, it wasn’t new news. Our hospitality clients have been telling us for months that recruitment is becoming their number one priority. The best performing restaurant chains are increasingly concerned about finding enough chefs to cook for their customers rather than finding enough customers to eat the food!

From an HR perspective, I think there are some lessons to be learnt from what’s been happening in the London tech developer over the past 10-15 years. The successful companies in this space have been the ones at the forefront of the trend towards competing for talent on employee experience.

While tech firms throw free bars, barista quality coffee, slides, ping pong tables, in-house yoga instructors etc at their people, manufacturers and hospitality businesses are unlikely to have the same scope in their business models to afford these kinds of perks. Nevertheless, I think the lens of employee experience is still critical for winning the growing war for talent in these sectors. 

In the context of employee experience, I think there are five things manufacturers, restaurant chains and hotels should be thinking about…

  1. Speed to hire. In a tight labour market, an efficient recruitment process is essential. If you don’t act quickly when you find good candidates, they’ll accept a job elsewhere (there are plenty of others around). Following up applications, interviewing, making hiring decisions and issuing offers in a timely fashion is a non-negotiable. 
  2. A strong story. Brands need to communicate what’s special and different them and the broader value they offer to employees. Too many employers in the manufacturing/service space are selling their jobs on basic terms such as salary. What’s the journey your organisation is on? What culture can employees expect? What learning experiences are they likely to get?
  3. Personalised experience. Being able to personalise the employee experience at volume is a key differentiator. This is enabled by great tech – you’re spoiled for choice in the HR tech market now and if you’re not making use of it, you’re falling behind. However even with great tech, human touch points are key. Hiring and line managers need to demonstrate care and attention when meeting, interviewing, checking-in and following up with candidates and employees.
  4. Word of Mouth. Bad experiences are shared and a bad reputation can spread fast. Ideally you want positive word of mouth reviews from all candidates, not just the ones who got the job. How you treat people during the recruitment process will not only affect whether they accept an offer if you give them one, it will also likely affect the ease with which you can attract candidates in future.
  5. Onboarding. Successful recruitment isn’t just about hiring a candidate – they have to stay and deliver value as soon as possible. Once you’ve convinced someone to join you, their first few days, weeks and months is going to have to live up to the vision you’ve sold or they’ll soon be looking for new opportunities. From offer acceptance to the end of someone’s first week is the key period for making someone feel welcome. You need to work hard to cultivate a sense of belonging in these early days. After that you need to quickly start delivering on the opportunities for learning and progress that you’ve promised. 

These are just a few of the critical areas of employee experience that I think the manufacturing and service industries are going to have to work really hard on in the coming months and years if they’re going to access and hold on to the decreasing pool of skilled talent. If it’s a challenge you’re grappling with, here’s our advice on how to go about improving employee experience.