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Lip service, nosebleeds and value propositions

Why do we find it so hard to walk the talk when it comes to the importance of human capital? No one argues the importance of people to our businesses. CEOs famously assert in their public relations efforts “people are our most important asset.” And in survey after survey we hear various leaders, for small and larger operations alike, recount the importance of good people and the relationship of human capital to the market value of their companies. But somehow, in actual practice, these ideals get lost.  Most companies fill a new positon or, deal with a sudden loss in personnel like a nosebleed. Just get it plugged!

The days of getting by on lip service and handling human resource needs on an as-needed basis are slipping away, not to return anytime soon. It’s a growing challenge. It’s trending. And, it should be a wake up call for any supply chain with a value propostion that is dependent upon people.

The cool pool

It shouldn’t be news. Successfully attracting, and, more and more, retaining employees is a trend that will not favor the slackers and lip servers in the manufacturing sectors. Data show only 25 percent of manufacturing workforces are 30 years or younger. The talent pool of the future will continue to mismatch the ambitions of manufacturing and its relentless quest for productivity growth like cold water thrown onto a babe in the sun. The sought-after employee comprises an illusive blend of education, motivation, advanced skills and increasing understanding for service orientation. They seek more adventure and expect less security (more on that statement in a minute). Generational differences alone will have real implications for how employers and employees find common ground.

More of less

It’s a paradox. On one hand, we’re shedding workers as manufacturing automation and other effeciencies reduce overall demand for labor. On the other hand, the supply chain is forced to become competitive attracting more of fewer available (and interested) candidates. Meanwhile, automation increases complexity which exacerbates the talent gap even more.

In order to attract skilled labor and management we’ll tap a more global workforce. Therefore, smaller local and regional shops will be challenged to adapt. Integrating more miniority, more varying demographic profiles, generational differences and differing cultural and workplace expectations. Not easy to accomplish and it will challenge any existing culture.

“It is crucial to develop an innovative workforce plan; create a talent pipeline and engage employees both current and future.”2


Of course, the talent shortage is also escalating wages. Seems overwhelming doesn’t it?

Remember, keep it simple and plan ahead. Ensure that each indivdual you hire embodies the culture you want to build or maintain. Forget loyalty and get used to a new kind of ethic around work. Select only those who can be responsible, engaged and committed to excellence. Most everything else will take care of itself.

Grouped together, all these challenges may require the expertise of an HR staff where there were none and/or more formalized talent management systems and acumen where seat-of-the-pants recruiting and hiring existed before.

Generational complexity

Three generations now coexist in the workforce. They each come loaded with their own box of rocks. The more you recognize their rather distinct physcographic profiles, the better off you will be.

Most career baby boomers (b. 1946 to 1964) were hired using two simple axis of measure: honesty and a strong workethic. Get those two intersecting and you had a great employee for life or, as long as you needed them. In return, boomers valued loyalty as the most important quality in the relationship. Whatever the case, they served a distinct purpose and embodied the qualities that helped build America for over a half-century. Look for them to live longer and retire later that any previous generation.

Generation X (b. 1965 to 1980) is in short supply, and by this time, ready for leadership positions. They won’t like shadowing Boomers and they feel quite finished with paying their dues. As a group they hold high education levels, are the most heterogeneous and, least likely to idolize you or any other leader. Autonomy and self-reliance, are the hallmarks of the Gen X.

The millennial generation, also known as Gen Y (b. 1981-2001), is the largest segment to roam the earth. By 2020, millennials will be 50 percent of the U.S. workforce. Yet, they are at the heart of the skills-deficiency crisis, especially in the maintenance industry where so much of the critical skill sets are locked in the heads of Boomers. They know nothing of job security, are strangers to loyalty and yet expect to be part of the action. Impatient to just observe, they want to participate, and they will want their views to be heard and to carry weight.

Last word

It doesn’t matter whether you’re hiring highly specialized “talent” or merely the tenacious, the job is ultimately the same: understand your priorities and the critical capabilities required for competitive advantage. And as always, you’re not done until the customer [remains] happy.

HIT Solutions believes the more your business keeps up with important trends, the more you will improve your product, and improve your bottom line.

Leave me your comments below; share your thoughts.

1. 2013 Survey Sponsored by ThomasNet
2. “Managing the Talent Crisis in Global Manufacturing—Strategies to Attract and Engage Generation Y”
3. A Deloitte Research Global Manufacturing Study
4. Forbes—“The New Millennial Values” by T. Scott Gross