A recently released report by consultants Sikich Manufacturing confirms what we already know: lack of qualified workers in industrial manufacturing is a growing problem. Specifically, a full 60 percent of companies reported that lack of qualified workers is a barrier to their business growth – up from 51 percent last year.

This number is even more concerning given that 69 percent of the respondents plan to increase headcount next year. (Figure 1)

skilled labor shortage

Figure 1: Data from Sikich 2017 Manufacturing Report

In short, manufacturers need skilled labor — but skilled labor is in short supply.

While some initiatives have been put in place to address the skilled labor shortage, there’s one overlooked opportunity no one is talking about.

And that opportunity is your manufacturing website.

I’ve written on this topic before, but it’s worth elaborating here. There’s a lot you can do to attract skilled labor with your website (or, rather, a lot you can do to not discourage potential job applicants) – but few small manufacturers are doing these things.

Therefore, let me outline five practical ways you can use your website to attract skilled job applicants:

1. Add a Careers section

Adding a Careers section to your website lets interested parties know (1) you’re hiring, (2) for which positions you’re hiring, and (3) you’re serious about attracting outside applicants.

Having a Careers section is especially important if you advertise open positions on job sites, such as Monster.com or Indeed.com. If applicants find your listings on these sites, you can be sure they’ll visit your website for more information. If they can’t find a detailed job listing, they’ll be dissuaded from applying.

An example of a Careers page is Figure 2 from a small manufacturer’s website. This page lists all of the open positions. When a job seeker clicks on any job, a new page opens to the full job description.

careers page

Figure 2: Example of a Careers page that lists open jobs

Once you have your Careers page in place, make sure it’s highly visible on your website. Don’t hide it into a submenu! You want to catch the attention of people who come to your website, whether they’re looking for a job or not. Even if they’re not looking, they may know someone who is.

For example, this website has a “Careers” button as part of the main page navigation, making it almost impossible to miss:

Careers in navigation

2. Update your website’s design

Unfortunately, a Careers section will have limited value if it’s located on a tired, out-of-date website.

I can’t begin to explain the value of a good, well-designed website. Good design goes beyond something that looks flashy. A well-designed website incorporates all kinds of things that most owners or marketing teams of small manufacturing firms simply don’t think about (and nor should you, because truthfully, your job is to create more product efficiently, not know all the ins and outs of website design and coding).

Suffice to say, what you should know is that a well-designed website – one that’s been created around YOUR business – sends the message to potential job applicants that you’re modern, innovative, and that you’re a great employer.

Communicating that you’re modern and innovative is especially important when you’re trying to attract younger applicants. People in their 20s and 30s are accustomed to a certain level of visual appeal and functionality in technology, including the websites of their employers.

(For more on this, click to download the jobs booklet Rachel Cunliffe and I put together: Make American Manufacturing Great Again.)

In contrast, a website with an outdated, clunky design says: “We’re old. We’re stuck in old ways of doing things. We’re not innovative” – even if the exact opposite is true.

Figure 3, for example, shows the home page from the type of clunky, outdated manufacturing websites I see just about every day. Even with the blurred out copy, you can see the template is vertical versus horizontal (and thus not mobile-friendly) and the photo is of the building rather than people.

Why would a Gen Z or Millennial want to work here? This company might be an excellent place to work, but you wouldn’t guess that from the website. Oy!

Example of old website

Figure 3: Home page showing a manufacturer’s building vs. people coupled with non-mobile friendly design

3. Make your website mobile friendly

And speaking of mobile friendly – if you’re a parent, you know that kids today live on their phones. Heck, the last time my 20-year old son was here overnight, I had to go into his room at 2:00 AM to say, “WILL YOU TURN THAT DAMN THING OFF?!”

Yes, he actually sleeps with his phone and the thing had been chirping like a cricket all night long.

So, having a mobile-friendly website has gone well beyond “nice to have” to a MUST-HAVE if you want to attract highly-skilled, younger job applicants.

Case in point: While in the gym locker room recently, I overhead a young woman venting her frustration that she could not submit a job application via her mobile device. She was stuck at the gym for her shift – and had told a prospective employer she would get her application in. The problem was, the online form she had to submit wasn’t mobile friendly. Argh! She was beyond frustrated.

Another example: Rachel Cunliffe and I work with a client who is in the middle of a huge recruitment process. The client tested an integrated HR / payroll system – which included an online job application.

The big corporate HR / payroll system seemed like it met all the requirements and had a slick sales pitch and reputable clients — but didn’t meet their needs.

OMG – talk about complete disaster. When Rachel and I first tested the form on our mobile devices, neither of us could get past the first screen. When we contacted the HR company’s developers, we were told that applicants needed to fill out the form on their desktop computers.

Excuse me, but not everyone has a desktop, and second, the form should be mobile friendly. This is 2017 – not 2008!

But, we wanted to make this work for our client, so we made alterations to the landing page. Unfortunately, the form was so difficult to use that job applications went from 15+ per week to zero.

The client had no choice but to terminate the trial run. Rachel is now creating a system for the client using various WordPress tools such as Gravity Forms.

4. Take a look at Google’s job listings search

A couple months ago, we were excited to learn that Google now allows any company to add their job posts to Google’s job listings search feature.

Since then, we’ve been working with a few select clients to add mark up code to their job listings so they can get picked up by Google search.

Rachel (and her brother, Stephen Merriman) do this by creating a special job description template in WordPress (Figure 4) that includes the information required by Google.

Custom job description template

Figure 4: Custom job description template, WordPress

We’re still ironing out some of the kinks in this process, but it’s well worth the effort. As with any change in technology, those who’re first to adapt are way ahead of the curve once everyone else realizes they need to catch up.

And too, when hiring competition is stiff, any advantage is welcome.

5. Consider apprenticeships

In June, President Trump signed the Executive Order that expands apprenticeships in America. The Department of Labor has now revamped its own website to promote this wonderful program.

If you’re a small manufacturer, hiring someone through this program is a great way to train kids just out of high school or a technical program – while helping them gain valuable experience.

See the Department of Labor’s website for additional details – and once you have your program in place, announce it on your website!

Department of Labor website

Get Ahead of the Hiring Competition

I hate to say this, because I love working with small manufacturers and seeing all the wonderful things they’re doing – but the fact is, the bar is set pretty low when it comes to attracting skilled hires through the company website.

If you want the best employees, then you have to show you’re the best – and it starts with the first impression of your company website.

If you’re experiencing trouble finding and hiring new workers – and you haven’t updated your website in five, six or more years, call me. My colleague, Rachel Cunliffe, and I want to help Make Manufacturing Great Again, and we’re doing so by helping manufacturers create great websites – sites that attract skilled workers and get you new business.