Industrial Automation Companies

Talent Strategy Tips for Industrial Automation Companies

Posted on August 2, 2023 by

Bryan Powrozek

Bryan Powrozek

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Industrial Automation TalentAttracting and retaining talent in the candidate-centered automation market isn’t easy. However, admitting that the fierce competition for talent is not going anywhere is the first step. I recently sat down with Alex Chausovsky, VP of Analytics and Consulting at Miller Resource Group, to discuss the realities of this competitive job market, and help small to mid-size companies build a successful talent strategy.

Miller Resource Group

Miller Resource Group specializes in leveraging sales and marketing techniques to assist organizations in attracting and recruiting applicants. They also help companies fill their open positions by enabling organizations to effectively promote their value proposition to potential employees, rather than the conventional approach where the balance of power rests with the employer. This is particularly vital in today’s hiring landscape, where automation is in high demand, making it a nearly recession-proof industry.

Job Hoarding to Avoid the Pains of Hiring

A new component in the equation that is squeezing the market even further is job hoarding. Companies are choosing to retain more staff than current business demands require just to avoid having to go through the agonizing rehiring process. Keeping these workers can prevent the delays with new projects, which would have to be put on hold because of limited capacity otherwise. It also prevents the typical layoffs seen in a traditional recession.

To retain and engage your current staff, it is important to find opportunities for them to grow and develop new skills so they do not find their roles unfulfilling just because there is a pause on new projects. Job satisfaction with meaningful work that is appreciated is also essential for retaining employees. When jobs become redundant, employees typically start searching for new employment opportunities.

Automation Eases Hiring Pressure Amid Shortages

As companies continue to hoard talent resources and recession fears slow down job mobility, it makes it harder for other companies to hire even if their industry is not directly impacted by the recession. Automation is one of those industries that is experiencing such high demand that the effect of an economic downturn would be limited. In fact, automation is emerging as a solution for numerous companies grappling with talent shortages since the labor market disruptions caused by the post-pandemic recovery.

Despite the common misconception, automation is not taking jobs from human operators in the field of construction. In fact, automation can help supplement the job roles being left vacant by a wave of retiring boomers and reduce the impact of the labor shortage as the industry continues to work towards establishing new talent pipelines. In the wake of the pandemic, the United States has witnessed a tightening of immigration policies, leading to significant challenges in replacing the two million immigrants who otherwise would have joined the workforce. This has further emphasized the necessity of automation as a solution to address the resulting labor shortage.

Automation can also make existing employees more efficient so that fewer positions need to be filled, and help prevent employee burnout—another factor that leads to turnover. In anticipation of the next recession, the importance of efficiency becomes paramount, as it may not be feasible to rely on over-hiring as a cushion to account for potential hires that may not succeed. Instead, it will be more important to get the right hire for the job the first time.

Capitalizing on Economic Downturns

Chausovsky remains optimistic that–even if this current slowdown becomes a mild recession—it will be different from other economic downturns following major events like the pandemic in 2020, the financial crisis in 2008, or the 9/11 attacks in 2001. The Fed has successfully slowed down the economy by design with interest rate hikes, but the wave of layoffs has largely held off.

However, the tech sector has been the one exception to experience significant layoffs starting with tech-giants like Amazon. It is important to note that these layoffs are the result of over-hiring to provide unique online services during the pandemic that are simply no longer needed anymore.

These cutbacks and layoffs in the tech industry are creating a new pool of available talent to hire from that can benefit the smaller companies that have been desperate to find new talent pipelines. If any other industries experience a downturn independent of a recession, that is where companies should strategically look for freshly available talent to hire.

Hiring employees in an uncertain economy after they have just been laid off will earn additional loyalty and lead to even better retention. The strategy here is to find ways to capitalize during economic downturns to get in a better position ahead of the next period of economic growth.

The Three Pillars of Talent Acquisition Strategy

More specifically, Chausovsky provides three main pillars to consider for an effective talent strategy:

1. Attract the Right Job Applicants

Market what makes your business, products, industry, team, or current projects interesting. Don’t just focus on money, but establish a core mission statement or guiding business philosophy that prioritizes making the world a better place over profit.

Understand the candidate in front of you will be unique and care about different benefits so don’t fall into the habit of simply asking all candidates the same questions or assuming their answers will always be the same. Using a survey of job applicants that asks them to rank location, advancement opportunities, money, and job security in order of importance can be an effective way to establish what is most important to them.

2. Become a Desirable Employer

Streamlining the hiring process is important to getting desirable candidates to accept job offers. In the current job market, candidates will entertain other offers if a company cannot make up its mind after the first two-to-three interviews. If the questions are unavoidably the same, it can be beneficial and efficient for companies to conduct group interviews in the same room. In this environment, it is even more important to let the candidate know right away if your company is interested in them to show them you value their time.

Track hiring metrics including, but not limited to:

  • The Offer-to-Acceptance Ratio
  • How long it takes to get an employee that is a good fit for the position
  • The number of resumes that came through before a quality candidate was found and hired

There are apps that can help with tracking compensation data like Labor IQ, which can help identify the competitive market rate for any position so that you can ensure your offers are competitive.

3. Ensure High Job Acceptance Rates and Retention

Companies that provide open avenues for constructive feedback from their employees at every stage of their employment from the hiring process to the exit interview tend to fare better with retention. Understanding what your workforce needs to succeed is good for business, but better retention has always been a value-add. The Gallup Q12 survey can be an effective tool for gauging these retention metrics for a low cost per head.

Training and development are also important for retention as employees without opportunities for growth are more likely to leave. While it may be intimidating for small to mid-size companies to develop their own management training programs, they are desperately needed for engineers in the automation field whose on-the-job skills don’t always translate to management.

Continue the Conversation

Clayton & McKervey’s industrial automation group provides trustworthy advice to business owners on succession planning, employee incentive programs and tax strategy. We would be delighted to have a conversation with you about your individual situation. Let’s connect.

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Bryan Powrozek

Senior Manager, Industrial Automation

As the leader of the firm's industrial automation group and host of The Sound of Automation podcast, Bryan helps owners free up cash flow and scale their businesses.

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