Laura Putre, Dec 01, 2020
There’s no better time for manufacturing to develop the diverse next-gen workforce it needs, says Saint-Gobain North America’s CEO.
The pandemic is a golden opportunity for manufacturing to remedy talent shortages it has suffered since the Great Recession, when it was forced to shed skilled workers that never returned when the economy came back.
“Here we are now with an inverse kind of crisis,” observed Mark Rayfield, CEO of Saint-Gobain North America in his Dec. 1 keynote at the IndustryWeek Manufacturing & Technology Virtual Conference. “What’s really impacted are those service jobs. There are millions and millions of unemployed Americans in all walks of life … who are now available.”
Saint Gobain/Certainteed is a building and high-performance materials manufacturer comprising approximately 160 plants and 15,000 Saint Gobain employees and 60 plants and 6,500 Certainteed employees.
Rayfield said that manufacturing must come together as an industry, working in local communities “to attract the diverse talent we need for the future”—and do it with intent. “We have to be better at communicating the benefits of being in the business, and use our own people to communicate and recruit locally,” he said.
Rayfield highlighted four core ways to connect with next-generation talent:
1. Fill the space where opportunity and need overlap. Recent high school and college graduates are entering a workforce where the roles they’re prepared to fill, such as in the service industry, are no longer available (recognizing opportunity). They have new ideas and can challenge their employers to perform beyond the status quo (fulfilling a need).
2. Promote that you have great jobs. It’s important to get that message out that manufacturing workers can make a good living, travel and/or relocate, advance within the company if they so desire and move into interesting roles in different areas that keep them challenged and growing. “The generation we’re trying to attract needs that diversity of jobs and the ability to move,” said Rayfield.
3. Use your best resource—your people—to attract new talent. It’s an approach that’s “nearly free and has a fantastic ROI,” Rayfield noted. Saint-Gobain provides paid volunteer time for employees to engage with vocational tech programs and other worthy organizations within their communities, to bring awareness of the opportunities out there. It’s also a chance for employees to connect with the world outside of their immediate job and feel valued. “When you let employees from all over your organization tell their stories, the engagement that will develop, the pride they will have in their job pays dividends 10 times over,” he said.
4. Act with intention. Decide what’s important to change in your culture, and then be intentional about changing it. Rayfield admitted that Saint-Gobain hasn’t gotten as far as it would like in its own discussion about how to create structure around employees’ community engagement, but it’s making progress. Make the time to plan. Understand how many people you want to employ and how you’ll support the effort. Put a budget behind it, for internships, for jobs for good people that complete training. Work with colleges to develop programs like the Essentials of Manufacturing or the Essentials of Leadership, that give them a new job experience every six months.
“We’re in this together,” Rayfield told attendees. Let’s be in it together—let’s communicate, let’s share ideas back and forth. What a great opportunity to use this time to attract and retain the talent we need and set the mission and vision going forward.”