Is the skills gap the only thing hindering the progress of the Additive Manufacturing industry?
In this, the final part of the series, we’ve outlined 5 key factors that, based on industry feedback and our experience, companies need to address to allow them to be successful in this market.
Part 3 – The Solutions
In the first 2 parts of our article, we’ve highlighted the reasons why traditional recruitment methods are inhibiting the growth and development of the AM industry.
· Lack of real strategies, or hiring strategies.
· The lack of a mature recruitment industry for Additive Manufacturing
· Outdated attraction processes still being applied across the board
We’ve called this section “The Solutions” and, in line with the paradigm shift we discussed in part 2, here are 5 things that companies can be doing right now to attract and retain talent.
1. Be flexible. The ability and willingness to flex to what the market is telling us is probably the most important factor that determines success or failure. Overly complicated jobspecs only hinder the recruitment process in this industry. A better solution is to consult with a recruiter that understands the market, and can help you identify the best way(s) to build your AM team and execute your overarching strategy.
Ultimately you only need to hire one person in each process, and of course that person needs to be right, but the idea that you need a shortlist of 5 candidates, who all need to have a certain level of education and experience, will only make the search process more complicated and time consuming for you and your chosen recruitment company. In our experience, it’s more important for you to understand exactly what you’re trying to achieve, and to be able to work with an experienced recruiter with the kind of network to be able to advise you on various directions in which you could go, depending on which candidate(s) you want to hire.
2. Be sure of why. It’s fair to say that the best people in the industry share some fairly simple traits. They share a similar value system, and they want to commit to a vision, work towards a goal and leave a legacy. If a good candidate feels that their employer doesn’t have a real strategy and doesn’t understand exactly what they’re trying to do with the technology, that’s the time when companies should expect their best people to be looking around. It’s important to remember you’re competing against other companies that also want to win, so doing the work and continually investing the time in your attraction and retention strategies is the only way to keep you ahead of your competitors.
John Barnes says that “What we’re seeing is Gen Xers and Millennials value flexibility in location and working hours, but most importantly want to have an impact. They have choices on where to go, so it’s the clarity and plan that will attract them”. These talented individuals want to be working towards making that impact right now, so if you’re not sure of exactly what direction you want to take your strategy in, that’s probably the time when you should be seeking external support from a consultant like John who can provide that invaluable experience, having advised on, and been involved with numerous collaborative programs for Additive Manufacturing.
3. Alignment – This needs to be internal as well as external. It’s massively important that hiring managers, Human Resources and the company board all agree upon what is needed and why. It’s also vital that you take heed of the research and advice that experienced consultants provide, relating to what type of skillsets are out there, and how much it’s going to cost to bring those skills into your organisation. Candidates and clients need to be realistic and honest about what they want to achieve, and those goals need to be aligned for the relationship to move forward and be sustainable for the long haul. We’ve been involved in some seriously long processes as well as some incredibly fast hires. We’ve successfully managed VISA applications, cost of living adjustments, mind-blowing salary increases and everything in-between. If all the parties in the process are absolutely serious and clear about what they’re doing, and want to work together, then you can and will achieve success.
4. Deal with the difficult stuff now – Chances are that the perfect individual to implement your AM strategy won’t be living on your doorstep; If one candidate happens to live in a place where they can commute every day then great, but it’s highly unlikely. Be mindful that if you want the best team in the world for your AM division, the search will usually need to be global. With that in mind, it’s probably worth considering the implications of trying to hire somebody from overseas. Moving people from one country to another can be tricky, but it’s much easier if you tackle the complications around things like work visas before you start. It’s also worth considering that your company policy on relocation assistance will need to be configured in such a way that it makes the process of moving candidates geographically, simple and smooth.
5. Salaries – The key thing to know about salaries in additive manufacturing is that they bear absolutely no relation to the salary bandings that exist within your core business. In our experience, if you try and compare them directly, you’ll struggle to recruit the kind of people you need. Competition for these people is fierce and, as we might have already mentioned, they’re in relatively short supply. Bottom line, to get the best people in this market, you have to be prepared to pay for them.
We’ve seen a number of salary surveys that position themselves as a rough industry guideline, but to really understand what you need to pay to secure the best talent, we need to run a bespoke, project-specific pricing exercise for you, based on a number of factors which are unique to you and your requirements. Experience tells us that “generic” doesn’t work in this industry, and we know there’s no uniformity when it comes to salaries. With AM job titles varying so wildly from company to company, the suggestion that an applications role, for example, should pay more than a process role, has no real foundation in reality.
The point we’re trying to emphasise is that we don’t have all the answers, but it’s fair to say that every recruitment assignment for skilled talent in AM should start with a consultative, aligning process. In our experience, it’s far better to be prepared to change what you’re looking for before you start the recruitment process, then to be told 6 weeks into the search that “what you want doesn’t actually exist”, or that “it does exist, but it’s going to cost you a lot more money than you originally thought”
Additae and The Barnes Group Advisors have extensive experience of successfully delivering Additive Manufacturing programs and solutions in Europe, the US and beyond. We provide impartial advice on your strategy, and can connect you with experienced individuals who can help to transform your vision into reality.
Is the skills gap the only thing hindering the development of the Additive Manufacturing Industry?
In part 2 of this 3-part series, we highlight another key factor which is slowing down the progress of the Additive Manufacturing industry, and how you can adapt your attraction and retention processes to be successful.
Part 2 – The Paradigm Shift
To quote a certain Jedi Master, internal and external stakeholders need to “unlearn what they have learnt” about conventional talent attraction, when it comes to hiring the best AM talent, and it’s critical to “focus on the why”. You need to understand why the best candidates want to leave their current job, why they’re able to be picky, and why they would (or wouldn’t) choose you and your company over your competitors.
The most common reason why good candidates want to leave their current employer is lack of genuine “buy-in” and intent from the boardroom, so it’s really important for you to know exactly why you’re involved with additive manufacturing, or why you want to integrate additive manufacturing into your strategy. You might be working for the coolest company on the planet, with the strongest brand awareness and social media presence, but the best candidates in this space are looking for an idea they can really get behind. Being able to identify what you’re trying to achieve and why, and communicating that vision effectively, is key to succeeding in this complex landscape.
Strangely, these combined elements have not meant that we’ve been unable to find suitable candidates that exceed our partners’ expectations. It just means that there are a new set of challenges that need to be faced, which we see as a positive. It accentuates the fact that recruiters in this space cannot just submit candidates based purely on the detail that exists on their resume, or because they have 3D Printing mentioned as an interest on LinkedIn. Equally, posting a job description on a website and employing a recruiter to basically replicate that process for you, simply won’t work.
No candidate worth their salt wants to be called about their AM “dream job”, only to be told at interview stage that it’s with a company that uses a completely different technology to what they specialise in. Equally, ambitious companies won’t entertain the same 5 names repeatedly pulled from job boards by 3 different consultants who are just “having a go at AM recruitment”.
The screening process requires time, effort and painstaking attention to detail, and not just on the technical elements. Understanding the complexity of relocating a candidate and their family from one state to another, one country to another, and sometimes even one continent to another, is key. It’s fraught with complications, and managing all the relevant stakeholders to actually complete this kind of process is certainly not for the faint-hearted.
If you want to hire the best of the best, you need to have the best recruitment process, and that requires a complete paradigm shift.
Nobody’s saying you won’t make hires or find people through conventional methods, but it will take time and, of course, if you’re not spreading your net particularly wide, chances are you won’t be getting the best person for that job. When it comes to identifying and securing the best talent in the world, the search process requires as much innovation and attention to detail as you’d expect from your R&D teams. The good news is that over time, and much like any other industry, the AM recruitment market will shift its paradigm and work out more efficient attraction and retention processes.
Like those other industries though, that development can only be accelerated if companies are prepared to look externally to consultants like The Barnes Group Advisors who have OEM level experience working with businesses across the AM supply chain to realise their overall AM strategy, and stay ahead of their competition.
Based on our experience, and feedback we’ve had from people who know a whole lot more about the technology than we do, there are 5 key elements to focus on when trying to recruit within this market, which we’ll break down in detail in the third and final section on this topic next week. Stay tuned!
Is the skills gap the only thing hindering the development of the Additive Manufacturing Industry?
In this 3-part series, we highlight the key factors which are slowing down the progress of the Additive Manufacturing industry, and how you can adapt your attraction and retention processes to be successful.
Part 1 – The root cause
If you’re reading this, you’re probably familiar with the hurdles the Additive Manufacturing industry faces. Cost. Speed. Repeatability. Part Quality. Supplying parts to highly regulated industries. Providing an ISO for the AM world. They’re talked about at every conference, on the majority of our calls, and in every strategy meeting without fail.
There are still problems to solve and certain realities to acknowledge. This technology has the potential to change a great many things we take for granted today. It provides us with the ability to design, innovate and approach manufacturing in ways that were previously inconceivable. However, each of these ideas and concepts can only become reality once one key factor is addressed, because until this part is done well, the other elements (and thus the industry as a whole) cannot progress.
It all starts with the people
Disclaimer – We’re not here to tell you we have the answer. We prefer to use real life examples to advise on how, in our opinion, your company and the industry as a whole, can overcome these obstacles to success.
John Barnes from The Barnes Group Advisors has a line in his conference talks which accentuates this point. He says, “If we all use the same machines and the same materials, what are we competing on? Engaged people are the difference between good and great.”
In any environment, from being part of a regiment, to being part of a recruitment team, to a being part of a global technology corporation, the people in those teams are what determines success or failure, from the CEO all the way to the intern. No amount of machines, venture capital, company acquisitions or press releases will determine whether or not a company succeeds, unless the right people are in place and can work collectively to drive the technology, the research, the products, and the strategy. Vince Lombardi said that, “Individual commitment to a group effort – that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilisation work.”
You may have heard yourself say, “yeah that sounds great, but where are we going to find somebody with the kind of experience we need?” and you may have even said to a recruiter, “We know the kind of individual we need for this position doesn’t exist. Additive manufacturing experience would be a nice-to-have, but it’s not essential” Our response would be, “Why not?”
One thing that’s really important to remember here is that you’re not alone. This is a problem faced by the entire Additive Manufacturing industry.
We work in one of the most technologically advanced industries in the world, where we try new things, fail fast, adapt, and drive ourselves towards repeatable, scalable solutions; be it a digital factory, or central heating controlled from your phone. So, in this environment of innovation, shouldn’t we consider adopting innovative approaches to hiring and retaining talent.
Conversely, the vast majority of companies we engage with in the early stages of developing their AM strategy are still using the same methods of attraction that they’ve always used for more conventional disciplines. Again, we’re not saying it’s wrong, but our experience has taught us that companies who understand that the process needs to adapt, are the ones who are driving forward and attracting the best talent into their AM divisions.
It’s correct to say that there isn’t an over-abundance of real talent in this market, but that absolutely does not mean that the people you need don’t exist, and can’t be tempted to move for the right challenge. If anything, there are more excellent, valuable, experienced people looking to move now than ever before in the AM industry. The question is, how are you going to attract them to your business more effectively than your competitor attracts them to theirs? Why is somebody going to work for you versus your competitor? It’s by no means a straightforward process for candidates or clients, so it’s important to take the time to answer those questions because you can be sure that the top talent in the industry want to work for a company that is serious about AM, and is driving towards a goal they can truly believe in.
Earlier this year, Women in 3D Printing organized its first Virtual Career Fair where additive manufacturing organizations including Fast Radius, MatterHackers, AlphaSTAR, Boeing, Formlabs, HC Starck, Henkel, Link3D, Xometry, HP, GE Additive, Mantle, ASME, DMG Mori, BASF, Xerox and TRUMPF came together to share their hiring plans.
Additae Global, The Barnes Global Advisors (TBGA) and Alexander Daniels Global came together over a virtual panel to discuss 'recruitment and training advice'.