As the economy continues to slowly improve, the battle to attract and retain top management and technical talent is once again heating up. Successful mid-market manufacturing companies shared some of their best practices for attracting and retaining their key people with hard-to-replace skills and abilities.

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1. Lose Your Just-in-Time Mentality. Recruiting top talent is a journey, not a destination, and must be sustained over time. You must be on the hunt constantly, not just when you need someone. Develop relationships with students early in their academic careers, as the best students are often “locked up” by their junior years. This also means hiring opportunistically, sometimes even ahead of your plans, to grab a hot prospect.

2. Step Up Your Commitment. Large employers are routinely spending $40,000-$50,000 per hire, so you need to show recruits that you are a serious alternative. This doesn’t mean you need to spend what they do, but your “B” game will no longer cut it.

3. Play to Your Strengths. Remember you are competing against industry giants in hot industries, so highlight your strengths. Sell them on your community (Under Armour, for example, does a fantastic job selling the advantages of working at a mid-sized, Baltimore-based apparel company). Or emphasize that new recruits have significant responsibilities and the opportunity to have immediate impact—a path not available at bigger companies.

4. Recognize That You Are Not In the Drivers’ Seat. In the good ‘ole days, employers held the cards and candidates were made to jump through (often asinine) hoops. Today, top talent has choices, so swallow your pride, show them the respect they deserve and get into “sell“ mode.

5. Elevate Your Mission. A good mission beats better compensation and fancier offices nearly every time in today’s world. So if your mission doesn’t inspire passion, think harder and get back to the drawing board.

6. Paint Them a Picture. Give recruits a challenging environment with a defined growth path, and help them fulfill their potential. But also recognize that young people plan to change jobs every few years, so make a two-year commitment at your firm an attractive learning opportunity for great candidates.

7. Feed the Whole Person. Today’s candidates don’t compartmentalize work like they used to. This means that, in addition to being available 24/7, they increasingly see work as a place to fulfill aspirations like community service and meaningful friendships. So get to know your people personally, praise them often and, or course, reward results.

Your best source for advice and support is other manufacturing CEOs who have experienced the same challenges and share the same responsibilities you have.

- chiefexecutive.net

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