Attracting, Engaging & Retaining Employees



Here’s the good news: the unemployment level in the United States has reached a nearly 50-year low. The bad news is, there are now more job openings than there are skilled people to fill them. Nearly every manufacturer I speak with is feeling the impact of this nationwide talent shortage. In fact, 92% of small businesses surveyed reported they had a need for skilled workers, with only 7% feeling optimistic about finding qualified candidates. It has now become critically important for manufacturers to focus on how they will find the workers they need, and ensure they can retain them in the years to come.

The question is, what can we do about it?

The answer seems to be multifaceted and not a quick fix, requiring companies to rethink the very way they have operated for decades. They must find ways to be more attractive and achieve a good company culture and reputation. Be “modern” in how they approach both their physical and mental environments. Be flexible and willing to abandon their old ways and the mantra, “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” Learn to embrace technology and change.

As a previous recruiter in the manufacturing space, I can tell you that money is always a factor in attracting candidates. However, there are other aspects that weigh heavily when making career decisions. A recent survey from Boston Consulting Group proves this, with respondents ranking the following as the top 10 most important factors that make them happy at work:

  1. Appreciation for your work
  2. Good relationships with colleagues
  3. Good work-life balance
  4. Good relationships with superiors
  5. Company's financial stability
  6. Learning and career development
  7. Job security
  8. Attractive fixed salary
  9. Interesting job content
  10. Company values

As you can see, employees are looking for a comfortable and friendly work environment where they can make a difference. Jacob Morgan, best-selling author and thought leader in employee engagement and leadership, put it best when he explained, “You can’t pay someone a lot of money, treat them poorly, and expect them to do their jobs well just because they get a nice paycheck.” Creating a workplace that provides the aspects listed in this ranking is the key to attracting the workers you need.

Once this has been achieved and employees have been hired, how do you keep them engaged? And why is that important?

First, it is important to understand what employee engagement means. This goes beyond just job satisfaction. As Kevin Kruse explains in his book Employee Engagement 2.0, employee engagement refers to “the emotional commitment an employee has to the organization and its goals, resulting in the use of discretionary effort.” An employee’s engagement level directly relates to how well the organization will perform, making this a priority for all business leaders. Much like attracting employees, a number of factors contribute to employee engagement:

  • Career development opportunities
  • Flexible work hours
  • Competitive compensation
  • Continuing education and training
  • Positive and diverse company culture
  • Transparency and honesty
  • Autonomy
  • Inspiration
  • Communication
  • Employee recognition
  • Positive company reputation in the industry

Companies that provide these benefits to employees should find that workers care more, deliver better work and even stay in their jobs longer. This, in turn, leads to happier customers and a more successful business.

While it is critical to ensure you are successfully attracting workers, it is just as important to learn how to engage and retain employees once they have been hired to achieve greater results down the line. In order to obtain more skilled workers now and in the future, manufacturers must focus on how to master both attracting and retaining workers as the talent shortage continues to heavily impact the industry.

For further assistance with attracting, retaining and engaging employees, visit or call 888.414.6682.


Deb Joseph, Business Solutions Manager
Deb Joseph is a Business Solutions Manager at The Center, primarily assisting manufacturers in the southern and central regions of the state. In her role, Deb draws from her experience in business development and sales, along with her knowledge of the manufacturing industry, to provide relevant and effective solutions to manufacturers' needs.

Since 1991, the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center has assisted Michigan’s small and medium-sized businesses to successfully compete and grow. Through personalized services designed to meet the needs of clients, we develop more effective business leaders, drive product and process innovation, promote company-wide operational excellence and foster creative strategies for business growth and greater profitability. Find us at

Categories: Data & Trends, Leadership/Culture, Workforce