The Monty Heat Treat News-Finding and Retaining Good People

The #1 issue in the global heat treatment industry these days is finding and retaining good people. In an effort to find out how this was affecting the industry we went to an expert, Mr. Josh Hale of International Search Partners, the foremost recruiting firm in the heat treat field. This is what Josh has to tell us;

The number one concern for heat treaters these days has to do with the difficulty in finding and retaining good people. You know this better than anyone out there, care to share a few comments?

International Search Partners has been providing recruiting solutions exclusively to the thermal processing industry since 1998 and I’ve been in the human capital business almost as long (focused primarily on finance prior to getting into heat treat with ISP almost a decade ago), and this market is CRAZY! The demand for talent has never been as strong as it is now, with literally every company vying to hire and keep good employees. In our business, we sometimes use the term a candidate’s market” to describe times where unemployment is low and there are more available jobs than there are potential employees… well, what we’re experience now is a candidate’s market x 100!

What factors do you attribute to these current market conditions?

There are several broader socio-economic factors at play that are affecting all business right now, but specifically for the heat treat industry, two key issues stand out: 1) This is an older industry and many of the experienced workers from the Boomer generation with institutional, homegrown knowledge are retiring early. This is partially due to a multi-year bull run in the stock market and real estate that has afforded them this option, and, of course, there’s still COVID scares or other lifestyle factors that are removing many 50+ yearolds from the pool of potential candidates. 2) This is related, but the older workers aren’t being replaced by the younger generation at a rapid enough clip. 20-somethings just aren’t getting enticed into factory jobs anymore, and college students are less likely to study metallurgy or materials science. Plainly speaking, the industry suffers from a marketing problem. We need to find a way to attract young people into this business earlier in their careers.

With the shortage of people are salaries and wages rising?

YES! They’re rising and rising fast! We’ve seen upticks on starting salaries for all positions this year versus last and it seems to be going up every month... whereas previously a “good” offer was 10-15% above a candidate’s current salary, we’re now seeing 20-25% and up to 40% in some cases for niche skill sets. As mentioned before, this is truly the definition of a “candidate’s market.”

Do you see firms hiring individuals with no experience on the basis that they will train them?

This not something we get involved in much, because, if a company is going to pay our fee for a hire, they usually want experience. However, I have heard of companies being willing to lower their requirements for hourly production jobs and hiring with little-to-no experience and/or being more willing to take a flyer on someone with a “jumpy” job history or even those who might interview poorly but are otherwise capable and willing to be trained.

Are retired individuals being dragged back into the industry kicking and screaming?

No – they’re all too rich! Seriously, though, we have seen some companies pay consulting rates equivalent to 1.5-2x salaries to former employees, just to get them through certain key projects. This is obviously unsustainable long-term but can provide a temporary band-aid for the company and prove very lucrative for the former employee in specific instances. Overall, though, this is not a trend we see taking hold.

If a company is unable to find somebody to fill a position, what innovative ideas have you seen to handle this?

We advise companies to think outside the box and look for ways to duplicate previously successful hires. This is especially true for hourly production workers who can come in with light experience but get up and running quickly with the right training. For example, if the best mechanical technicians tend to have a hobby of tinkering on motorcycles, maybe advertising open jobs in the local dirt bike newsletter instead of an online job porta would be better.

Also, this market demands flexibility. If a job can potentially be work-from-home or offer flexible hours, even part of the time, that’s a huge selling point. The best candidates have options and it’s not always money that’s going to be the main lure, so companies need to get creative on what else they can offer to attract talent.

And then, there’s always the direct recruiting approach, which this is where we come in. A business is like a sports team, and the champions are the ones that aggressively go after recruiting the all-stars. Our specialty is engaging with companies who want to WIN and helping them build out the right team by selectively going after the best possible resources for every key position on the team.

Josh Hale has been collaborating with companies to identify, engage, and hire top performers as a professional “headhunter” and human capital consultant since the early 2000’s. He’s focused exclusively on the thermal processing industry since acquiring International Search Partners in 2015. ISP was originally founded in 1998 and is the only search and placement firm to specialize exclusively in heat treat.

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