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Lack of skilled candidates in manufacturing sector calls for revised recruitment strategy

By Iwona Sączawa, team manager, Hays, recruitment experts in engineering, logistics & procurement
Header iwona s czawa


Poland has a developed market economy and a well-performing manufacturing sector.

It’s an attractive country to which advanced manufacturing production lines are being transferred. It is also a place where job roles with a global scope of responsibilities are located. Industrial production in Poland is increasingly advanced and Polish employees are perceived as highly skilled and motivated specialists. Economists and business leaders predict that positive trends currently observed in the market – such as dynamic economic development and a record-low unemployment rate – will continue in forthcoming quarters. Employers declare a willingness to increase their recruitment, which coincides with a growing supply of job offers on the market. It is expected that many job offers will be targeted to well-qualified specialists with considerable professional experience.

The strength of the manufacturing sector in Poland is due to the high quality of operations and products, and hence, the need to recruit the right talent is crucial for companies. Nevertheless, HR-related issues now qualify as one of the biggest challenges for businesses. This results from the record-low unemployment rate, and from a growing demand for specialists and managers who will effectively support manufacturing companies in the implementation of their development strategies. Therefore, recruiting and retaining qualified workers employed to manufacturing sites is one of the key challenges that employers representing the manufacturing sector have to face – regardless of business profile or region.

Difficulties in the recruitment of employees with the right skills require the HR departments to revise their recruitment and employment strategies. Increasingly often, companies reduce their lists of requirements and are willing to employ workers who do not yet possess all technical skills needed to work in a given role. Various companies that Hays works with emphasise that there are few skills that usually serve as a good predictor that the candidate will be successful in a manufacturing job. In the past, a strong work ethic and deep commitment to duties performed were highly regarded by employers. These assets were considered to be crucial for building a successful career in manufacturing. However, in recent years a transition has occurred from the outdated assembly-line style of manufacturing to the modern technology-driven production. This change has transformed the principles that govern the recruitment and employment strategy of prospective talents in manufacturing companies.

Nowadays, the most valuable employees for the manufacturing sector in Poland need to have a wider scope of skills to be successful at work. A successful candidate has to possess a broader set of abilities and competences.  And these days, soft skills are also considered to be as important as technical skills, characteristic for manufacturing jobs. Recruiters and hiring managers tend to expect similar and highly universal soft skills, considered as a strong foundation for development when searching for prospective employees.

One of the key skills expected of manufacturing workers is the ability to communicate openly and in an effective way. Nevertheless, specialists within the engineering industry need to have the ability to collaborate and resolve conflicts but also to articulate and explain their ideas. Communication skills are also necessary to report progress in order to ensure that project’s objectives and deadlines are met. This ability is directly connected with linguistic skills. In order to operate and compete globally, companies increasingly need employees that are fluent in foreign languages and can communicate with people around the world.

Other skills needed are problem-solving and critical-thinking skills which are necessary to identify possible alternative solutions and challenges met in everyday work. It’s also crucial for sustaining the high level of innovation in manufacturing sites. Companies need advanced critical thinking to work beyond what has long been considered acceptable. Innovation and creativity are necessary to stimulate growth, solve problems and develop new products. Analytical skills are also required to assess how certain aspects of working conditions, operations, and environments may affect the outcome of projects.

What is worth noting is that producing and developing innovative solutions is almost impossible if the employees don’t have up-to-date knowledge about technology. Employers seem to be aware of this as technology is constantly evolving and changing the way manufacturing workplaces operate. As a result, companies search for experts that show a passion in technology. A valuable skill is also the ability to adapt. Manufacturing workers should be able to think of solutions to problems and adapt to situations as and when they happen.

Organisations representing the manufacturing sector are generally looking for people with the right combination of experience and technical expertise. Hard skills, such as planning or production management are just some of the core aspects for many manufacturing positions. More and more manufacturing companies start to realise the importance of strong soft skills as they give employees an opening to acquire or develop technical skills. Today’s manufacturing workers need to communicate effectively, solve problems or put forward original ideas – all these abilities are known as soft skills. There is a variety of opportunities and job types across industries and with so many different tasks involved in manufacturing, a well-developed soft skills set is a precious asset. Employees who have been or have the ability to be cross-trained are invaluable to the company as they are able to perform numerous job functions. Because of that they serve as prospective excellent trainers and supervisors down the line.

Many employers emphasise that their current priority doesn’t stop at hiring specialists and managers; candidates for entry-level positions are also fiercely sought after. Companies may need to start offering incentives and accept candidates without prior experience and train them in accordance with corporate standards. Many businesses cooperate with universities and some companies extend this partnership and become involved in the educational process by organising courses or sponsoring industry-related events held at universities. The apprenticeship model, where young students learn through practical training and solution-based lessons, is among the programmes proved to be most effective in developing a highly-skilled workforce.

As we are in the midst of a skills shortage, it is time employers reinvented their recruitment approach. Fortunately, companies are increasingly aware of the shortcomings of their recruitment processes. Identification of weak points will help companies to develop new recruitment methods and strategies, and will help to find the right employees for individual positions.

Why not start with shortening the application process, making it user-friendly and provide feedback? Those three areas impact on candidate experience and have significant influence on the effectiveness of recruitment procedures. I would also recommend to start thinking of prospective employees as customers. Companies are competing, in most cases, with other employers for talents and candidates often have the ability to choose which organisation to join. Therefore, organisations need to remember that candidate experience is crucial for hiring the right talent.  

Companies can also continually ask for feedback from both successful and unsuccessful applicants – ask about their recruitment experience and areas calling for improvements. The hiring process is not constant in terms of change and even the best hiring process can be improved. All in all, for the majority of manufacturing companies looking for the top talent with the right skills will still be a top priority for many quarters to come.

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