Can’t compete on salary? How SMEs can attract (and retain) manufacturing talent

Due to increasingly urgent demand for workers, average salaries across a number of UK sectors have rocketed in recent months. According to data from Indeed, manufacturing in particular saw a 4.6% rise in the average advertised salary between February and July 2021.  

This is great news for manufacturing workers and job-hunting candidates, but what about smaller businesses? SMEs typically can’t compete with larger firms when it comes to salary, which could leave them more vulnerable to labour and skills shortages.  

It’s time to think creatively 

When you can’t attract workers with large salaries, you need to think outside of the box. Here are some creative approaches to find and retail the talent your small business needs.

  • Focus on young talent 

Lay pipelines to feed talent into your business, both in the short and long-term. A great way to start is by partnering with schools, colleges and universities, to direct students towards careers in manufacturing – creating places for bright young talent within your business.  

  • Take advantage of government support 

There are numerous training grants available for manufacturing businesses looking to take on and train adults and young people. For example, the government’s National Skills Fund among others. This could give you vital support to create apprenticeship and training programmes for new employees.  

  • Build an attractive company culture  

When you can’t compete on salary, you need to make your organisation the best possible place to work, develop and learn. Consider your USP – are you a fabulously social place to work, committed to sustainability or the best place to learn highly niche industry skills? Define your identity, and find a dynamic way to ‘sell’ it to the jobs market.  

  • Offer irresistible employee benefits  

Another way to overcome the challenge of budgetary constraints is with a great employee benefits package. Money is a motivator for many candidates, but so is the promise of flexible working, help with childcare and amazing pension plans.  

  • Upskill your existing team 

By broadening the skill sets of your existing team, there’s less of a pressing need to bring in new talent. You can stay ahead of technology and invest in your best assets – your people. These valued team members can then potentially become mentors to your new hires and apprentices.  

  • Look into automation  

Automation is becoming increasingly essential for the efficiency, productivity and even the survival of smaller manufacturing firms. It’s not about replacing workers, but working smarter. Look for ways you can tighten up efficiency using technology, so that you can get more from the people and resources you do have.  

  • Capitalise on your ability to pivot 

Smaller manufacturers have one powerful characteristic that larger firms don’t – flexibility. It’s much easier for an SME to change direction, whether in response to a global health crisis or a shortage of workers. 

And of course, you don’t have to go it alone in your search for talent. Get a specialist like Aqumen Recruitment on your team to help you meet any and all hiring challenges.    

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