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The latest Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey, conducted by the National Association of Manufacturers (posted in early January 2018), shows many exciting data points.

Manufacturers’ optimism has risen to unprecedented heights, with 94.6% stating they were positive in their own company’s outlook.


The survey also asked manufacturers about their expectations over the next 12 months across nine categories. The results for a few of these categories:

The expected growth rate for production: 5%

The expected growth rate for capital investments: 3.4%

The expected growth rate for sales: 5.2%

And, the expected growth rate for full-time employment: 2.6%


What’s even better, is that the survey was taken while the tax cut bill was still being debated in Congress. If you’ve been following the news, you know that once President Trump signed the tax reform package into law, over 100 companies gave $1,000 or more in bonuses to tens thousands of employees — as well as announcing wage increases and/or investments in local communities. (source)

Companies have also announced they’re bringing production — and jobs — back to the US. Automaker Fiat Chrysler, for example, is moving its heavy-duty truck production from Mexico to Michigan in 2020 — creating 2,500 much needed jobs. (source)

Toyota and Mazda announced they’re building a 1.6 billion joint-venture factory in Alabama, scheduled to go online in 2021. The factory will employ up to 4,000 people building North America market Toyota Corolla cars and a small Mazda SUV. (source)

Top challenge for manufacturers: Attracting and retaining quality workforce

According the survey results, the inability to attract and retain a quality workforce is the top business challenge for manufacturers — toping out at 72.9%. With more companies re-shoring production, this challenge will intensify.

Close to 80% of survey respondents indicated they have unfilled positions within their company that they’re struggling to fill with qualified applicants. To fill this gap, manufacturers have resorted to various methods, such as creating or expanding internal training programs, collaborating with educators on skills certification programs, and encouraging retirees to stay longer in their roles.


Interestingly enough, no one ever asks how they can improve their messaging — and their websites — to attract highly skilled, sought after workers.

To compete, small manufacturers must present a fresh, modern, mobile-friendly website

Unfortunately, while the strategies mentioned above will help somewhat in alleviating a manufacturer’s labor gap, these strategies won’t have much effect if the manufacturer has a tired, out-of-date website.

I can’t emphasize enough the value of a modern, professionally-designed website. You expect your potential new hires to show up for interviews presenting their best selves (e.g. clean, pressed clothes) and an enthusiasm for wanting to work for you.

Your website should be sending the very same message about your company – that you’re innovative, modern, and a desirable place to work.

Instead, many small manufacturing websites are dull, tired, and b-o-r-i-n-g. A website with an outdated, non-mobile friendly design says: “We’re stuck in the old way of doing things, including our hiring practices,” even if the exact opposite is true.

So many times, I’ve walked into manufacturing facilities and have been blown away by the innovation and excitement.

But then you go to the websites of these companies, and they’re old, clunky and downright ugly – like this website with its picture of the building on the home page and non-mobile friendly design. In this day and age, it’s a marketing and hiring disaster.

Example of old website

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

In no way do websites like this reflect what’s actually going on inside these companies. Worse, they mislead potential new hires into thinking nothing is going on.

In conclusion . . .

While the development of workforce programs and other strategies is all good, these programs alone won’t solve manufacturing’s labor shortage problems.

Part of the responsibility for attracting skilled labor must lie with manufacturers and how they present themselves to the world.

Years ago, when skilled labor was in good supply and jobs were advertised through newspaper listings, how a company presented itself to potential new hires didn’t play a role in the hiring process.

But today, when competition for skilled workers is fierce, and you need to attract a broader swath of potential applicants, then the role of your manufacturing website in attracting skilled workers can no longer be ignored.

About the National Association of Manufacturers Outlook Survey
NAM has conducted this survey quarterly since 1997. The responses for Q4 2017 included responses from 662 manufacturers in a wide variety of manufacturing sectors and in varying classifications. The next survey is scheduled for March 2018.

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