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The War for Talent Is a Skills and a Communications Issue

The smoldering “War for Talent” within the manufacturing sector has evolved into a full-fledged conflict. And it promises to pinch manufacturers more keenly in the coming years.

A 2011 study from Deloitte Consulting and The Manufacturing Institute declared that the skills gap between what workers are trained to do and what manufacturers need them to do is hampering hiring, as well as the ability to innovate and grow. Adding to the problem, many manufacturers depended on outdated approaches for finding the right people. Deloitte predicted the skills gap to widen.

Eli Lilly Chairman, President and CEO John Lechleiter recently wrote in a post on Forbes.com that there are 600,000 vacant jobs within the manufacturing sector that could be filled today if educational programs geared to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) were strengthened.

The skills gap is real. And so is the need for more workers. Within Northeast Ohio alone, the business attraction organization Team NEO estimates that manufacturers will need to fill 47,000 by 2022 just to meet the churn created by retiring workers.

This ThomasNet.com survey indicates that manufacturers are aware of the recruitment problem, but they are struggling for solutions.

Many community colleges, STEM schools and other organizations are working to close the skills gap. But manufacturers and others with recruitment issues also should consider the War for Talent a communications challenge.

Consider the competitive landscape. Companies that attract the best workforce are likely the best communicators. They make compelling arguments to their most valued ambassadors – their employees – as well as to the public, that they are a safe, rewarding and comparatively lucrative place to work. In other words, they differentiate themselves with communications from the CEO’s office down to the shop floor.

Easier said than done? Here are five steps to get started:

  1. Understand how to communicate your story. Put five top-level executives in the same room. Ask each to relate the company’s story and how it impacts the corporate culture. You may be surprised at the variety of answers. Don’t leave that room until you have settled on a handful of high-level points that best describe your company’s evolution and the resulting corporate culture.
  2. Develop a strategy to communicate thought leadership, based on these high-level points. CEOs are increasingly learning to communicate in ways that add value to their personal and therefore corporate brand. (See John Lechleiter on Forbes.com.) Communicating in high-value channels such as the mainstream media and internal communications vehicles helps differentiate the company in ways few other tactics can.
  3. Consider your website and online newsroom. Does the information posted help tell your story, or does the newsroom simply represent links to media releases? (See Step 1.) Your website newsroom should feature original content such as articles and videos from your company about your employees, customers, innovations and expansions, as well as news media reports.
  4. Evaluate your media relations strategy. Regular communication with highly valued journalists and bloggers in the mainstream and trade media is essential. Provide them with both printed and video information useful to them. How can you tell if you are being effective? Ask yourself if the stories that support your culture and strategies are regularly represented in the media. A “one-article-and-done” strategy will do you little good.
  5. Evaluate your social media postings, and ensure they support the steps above. A properly implemented social media strategy engages potential talent and your current workforce. Make sure you post thought leadership articles and video on your website and distribute it through social media channels such as LinkedIn and YouTube. You can communicate proactively, distributing the stories you want to tell and stressing key points.

The War for Talent is not going to disappear soon. But effective communications can give you a powerful strategic advantage.

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