Talent Lures: Two More Tasks for Industrial Companies

April 6, 2023

Two more steps that expand your talent pipeline and attract new generations.

YoungManOnSmartPhone, Industry Today
Life, education, play, and work are conducted on mobile — and to expand the employment pipeline you have to use the same tools.

Last month I wrote about three simple first steps that manufacturing companies can take to begin the journey towards becoming the most attractive place to work for employees: 1) create a relevant corporate website; 2) modernize your work spaces & invest in your facility’s infrastructure; and 3) communicate on the relevant tech platforms that your employees and ideal candidates use. The only way to win the talent war is to become an exceptional company for exceptional candidates.

Here are two more tasks to consider, both of which expand your employment pipeline to new generations and also require a greater investment in time and money.

4) Engage at the grass roots in local high schools and tech schools, and become involved in your community.

Your future hires will be coming from those high schools and tech schools — or they’ll be going elsewhere. Somehow we have to challenge a common stigma regarding working in manufacturing.

Manufacturing is a place with good salaries, potential to advance, and possibilities for personal and professional development, creativity, and building a life. But for various reasons, schools, guidance counselors, parents, and entire generations haven’t received that message and frequently miss the opportunity to present manufacturing to students as an option for a career.

Manufacturing leaders must engage with kids at an early age, as early as middle school, by creating conversations, asking questions, offering facility tours, showcasing excellent internal training and development programs, making classroom appearances, and developing apprenticeship opportunities.

Your company’s visibility in the community is vital for building a larger employee pipeline. You can recruit people from far away. Or close to home. Recruiting closer to home is far easier, but you have to begin now to build relationships with future generations of workers.

BoysGaming, Industry Today
Much of the world has been “gamified” and gaming is one of the most popular pastimes for youth generations.

5) Embrace “gamification” to heighten engagement, performance feedback, and worker satisfaction.

Much of life, including education, has been “gamified.” According to Tapjoy, a mobile ad and app monetization company, about 86% of Gen Z “use mobile devices as gaming platforms.” Measuring, incentives, feedback, competing, learning — all of those things happen through online and mobile games, and education is embracing that shift.

The largest geographic education district in the country recently began introducing mobile games for their students that explore everything from cybersecurity careers to soft skills development. One company that has taken on the gamification needs of industries, schools, and economic/workforce development agencies is skillsgapp, which fields mobile interactive apps that help middle and high school-aged youth achieve career awareness and pathway access, as well as develop the middle and soft skills necessary to pursue jobs in skills-based industries. With a social network through gamification, students can see what others are doing, make comparisons, achieve feedback and real incentives, compete, and grow. Gamification in the workplace can offer the same benefits.

To begin adding “fun and games” to manufacturing, you have to decide what behaviors you are trying to improve and then offer incentives for those improved behaviors. Perhaps you want to increase participation in training and development, improve quality, or boost a safety measurable.

Once you determine what you want to improve, an old principle becomes clear: we can’t improve what we don’t measure. So data becomes critical — employees have to see process data, measure results, review feedback, and compete with one another through data transparency.

MobileGaming, Industry Today
According to Tapjoy’s research, 86% of Gen Z
“use mobile devices as gaming platforms.”

Gamification is not solely about technology. Decades ago, not long after beginning my process engineering career with Milliken, we began assigning seconds (imperfect products) directly to the shift that produced the defective product – more specifically assigning it directly to the individuals on the shift that were responsible. We graphed this on a large chart where every employee could see their individual and shift performance. Though it wasn’t tied into a real-time mobile application, it was updated daily and was a place where managers would provide positive feedback for all to see.

You don’t have to launch brand new mobile games. Experiment with adding elements of gamification to key strategic initiatives. In recent years I’ve seen one company offer gamified training and development for electrical subcontractors, and another offer $100 gift cards for certain training completions during onboarding. Gamification that is well constructed offers a possibility of mastery for employees. They can take their own careers into their own hands, choosing what achievements and incentives to pursue. Allowing that kind of autonomy and self-motivation offers significant psychological benefits for employees.

Gamification can make manufacturing fun again. Just as importantly, gamification allows you to reach a generation that has grown up with learning through mobile games. And reaching that generation will expand the employment pipeline in a very competitive talent market.

Ben Talbert Better Than Found, Industry Today
Ben Talbert

Ben Talbert is President and CEO of Better Than Found, a full-service professional and executive recruitment firm focusing on industrial sectors in manufacturing, engineering, and construction. After graduating with his degree in textile engineering from NC State, Ben spent the first ten years of his career in engineering with stints at Milliken and O’Neal, Inc., an EPC company that designs and builds manufacturing operations. For the past eight years, Ben has been recruiting for the same industries where he had worked. Connect with Ben at

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