How to attract and keep more UK industrial staff after Brexit is the question employers up and down the country have been asking since June last year. Until now, many factories and warehouses have relied heavily on labour from EU migrants, who account for as much as 11% of the manufacturing workforce, according to the Office for National Statistics. However, following last year’s referendum, they appear less willing to relocate here. In November 2017’s bulletin, the ONS found that falling numbers of EU migrants accounted for ¾ of this year’s drop in net migration.
In spite of the drop in migration, at Prime Appointments our Industrial team have managed to increase the number of our industrial candidates in the past year, comprising both EU and UK citizens. We can attribute this to the strong network of both EU and UK citizens that we’ve built up as part of our loyal candidate base.
However, it is evident that going forward, employers are going to have to find new ways to attract and retain UK talent, if they are to keep production going.
In their September 2017 report “Ready, willing and able? Can the UK labour force meet demand after Brexit?” the Recruitment and Employment Confederation set out some key recommendations for how to go about getting more UK nationals back on the line.
1. Make it fun!
The social atmosphere of working in a factory was one of the things UK nationals in the industrial sector enjoy most about the job, according to the REC’s interviews.
“One of the first things I found when I came here was how friendly everybody was, and that was from management right down to shop-floor level. Everyone seemed to make you feel welcome and wanted.” says Sue, a British food production worker in the East of England.
To attract more UK industrial staff, make the most of your company’s social appeal. You could appoint a social secretary to organise regular events, get-togethers and team bonding days. Once the word gets out that your factory is a fun place to work, it’ll be easier to attract new candidates. You can even include information about your company culture on job descriptions as an additional draw factor. Especially for people who have been out of work a long time, the pull of a friendly, sociable workplace can make all the difference.
2. Highlight your businesses’ options for progression
Everyone wants to progress in life and find a job where they can fulfil their ambitions, it’s only natural. One of the main boundaries the REC found prevented UK workers from applying for industrial jobs was the lack of information about the skills about where factory/warehouse jobs can lead. To change this perception, employers need to emphasize how manufacturing jobs require skill, dexterity and discipline. Be sure to emphasize in job descriptions any opportunities for training you may offer, such as getting a forklift license. The REC recommends partnering with local companies to ‘myth-bust’ misperceptions about your industry by holding open days in schools and local colleges. It’s a good idea to use these opportunities to show examples of people in your company who started on the line, worked their way up and achieved their ambitions.
3. Go the extra mile with people returning to the workplace
For people who have been out of work for a long time, factory work can be ideal. A highly structured workload and a friendly environment can be just what they need to get back into action. However, for people struggling with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, taking that step can seem like an impossible challenge. To make integrating into the workplace easier, consider letting new staff members shadow a current employee for a few shifts, before beginning. The REC recommends investing more time in this process, to build up a loyal workforce.
4. Offer English lessons to EU workers
On the whole, the REC found that EU and UK workers tended to get along well, language barriers did occasionally pose an issue. To help EU and UK workers get along, the REC suggests offering English lessons to employees who want to boost their language skills. After all, although the number of EU workers is likely to decrease over time, that doesn’t mean it’s going to go down to zero. Additionally, offering English lessons will give you a competitive edge over other businesses in the fight for diminishing EU talent.
At Prime Appointments, we recognize the importance of attracting and keeping a diverse workforce of EU citizens and UK nationals. As such, our Industrial team have years of experience in building relationships with candidates from all backgrounds and abilities. By focusing on the needs of the candidate and making opportunities for progression clear, we’re confident the UK workforce will be more than capable of meeting any future challenges of a post-Brexit labour market.