Adjusting to Labor Shortages


The lack of workers is a reality we are all facing, regardless of industry and position. As a manufacturer, we continuously hear from fabrication shops of the trouble they are having finding reliable, trainable workers. And it comes with no surprise as there is an increasing number of workers retiring, significantly low number of workers entering the manufacturing field and expected growth in the manufacturing industry. We are expecting about 2 million manufacturing jobs to go unfilled by 2020 as indicated by the research of Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute.

“We are expecting about 2 million manufacturing jobs to go unfilled by 2020”

With such a staggeringly high number of positions that will not be filled, plans need to be made to either recruit and retain highly-trainable employees or utilize technology to increase efficiency in the workplace. There are several steps involved in the journey of recruiting and retaining high performing employees.


Recruiting and Retaining

The manufacturing and fabrication jobs of today are much more attractive than the working conditions of the past. The common public is still under the perception of what the conditions have been of the past and most are not familiar with the advancements in the stone fabrication industry and the improvements that have been made to the work environment. In order to find talented, hard-working employees, you must focus time on branding your company along with your workplace.

Your first step is to assess your culture. Ask yourself why your employees want to continue to work for you. What makes your shop better than other places of employment in the area? When you determine these answers, share them within your advertisements, and in particular through social media. The employees of this generation respond well and connect with company brands via social media. When you are sourcing for new talent, help potential candidates see and feel what it is like to work at your company.

Once you develop your employment brand, you have to commit to living and promoting your brand in all your interactions with current employees, the community and with your potential candidates. Attract candidates through highlighting your culture, advancement opportunities and training. For example, Park Industries® uses the slogan “Leading is in Our DNA™” to encompass all the offerings that a career with Park entails. This branding is used across all platforms of recruitment including print, digital and physical booth space.

When recruiting new employees, appeal to candidates that are interested in the opportunity to develop into more advanced positions. Not only will employees feel valued and supported by the engagement, but developing your own talent pool will repay your company tenfold. Encourage your current workforce to refer people they know to work at your company. Many companies will offer a small referral bonus to their employees. Do you know that retention rate for referred employees is significantly higher than those that weren’t referred?

Form career paths for your employees. The new generation of workers entering the workforce are hungry and eager to learn and grow their skills. Offer different training programs based on their skills, such as apprenticeships, internships, part-time, full-time and others that fit within your company. Take advantage of federal and state-wide programs for training grants to help subsidize the costs of training new, unskilled workers. Utilize the resources of your community to assist in promoting open positions, as well as the online sources that are readily available. Advertising for new employees can be done through schools, at the local VA, on social media and on your website. All of these can be effective for finding qualified workers and are less costly than the traditional methods. Park Industries has partnered with local schools to provide tours of the facility. This is a great way to display the advancements that have been made in manufacturing and fabrication facilities. Opening the doors to intrigued students will result in questions about the career opportunities, perhaps more tours and lasting impressions that may lead to job inquiries and future career opportunities.

About 40 students from Sartell High School toured Park Industries.
A group of about 70 students from Sauk Rapids-Rice High School learned about the opportunities at Park and toured our facility.
About 25-30 students from Foley High School toured Park Industries as part of their College and Career Day.

Digital Solutions

While some fabricators work to find reliable workers, hiring new employees may not be a feasible option for all. In some markets, it is very difficult to find talented people to add to your team. If hiring new employees is not an option for your shop, another solution is to start looking at automating your shop processes. The automation of stoneworking equipment has a strong effect on fabricators’ production and a machine operator/programmer is a more attractive position to the new generation searching for jobs.

Benefits of automation:

  • Upcoming generations are technology-savvy and will gravitate towards jobs that offer a chance to operate digital equipment.
  • It provides consistency from project to project, day to day.
  • Automation and defined processes will lead to higher productivity in your shop.
  • There is substantial value of working on other things while your machine is in operation.

The younger generation that is entering the workforce is more interested in jobs that are working with technology, as they have been brought up in the digital age. It may be easier to find employees for positions that involve working with CNC machinery versus performing manual labor. When advertising a job opening, you can highlight the technology that they will have at their fingertips and candidates will find the position more appealing. Use videos of your machinery in action to draw in the candidates.

When fabrication shops utilize equipment as labor, they can hit go, walk away and get more done. Stoneworking equipment is typically reliable, consistent and produces high quality. Roger Atherton, owner of Counter Effects, shared his experience, “Our profitability has greatly increased and our labor costs have decreased 39 percent in one year with the addition of our CNC SawJet. With machinery, we have no sick days. It is working 24 hours a day.”

There are strategies to combat the labor pool shrinking. If you are feeling the pinch of the small labor pool, evaluate your options. Whether your shop is looking to hire manual labor or add additional machinery, it is crucial to develop a brand for your business to fill positions. Thoroughly advertise and promote open positions via social media, your website and other online sources.

As the labor pool decreases, take action. What steps can you take within your shop? The time to start planning is now. With a forecast of only 1.4 million jobs filling the 3.4 million open positions in U.S. manufacturing over the next decade, the labor force is on the forefront of many minds in the stone fabrication industry.

Check out this article featured in the ISFA magazine: Adjusting to Labor Shortages



Kelly Hansen has worked in Human Resources for 18 years and is the Vice President of Human Resources for Park Industries®. She has a passion for business, leader and people development and uses it to help identify goals and create pathways to success.