A Diverse Workplace Enhances Competitiveness

An inclusive workplace creates a competitive advantage

This story appears in the July 2019 issue. Click here for a free subscription.

The job market in the Pacific Northwest is tight. A recent survey released by Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt revealed that one of the major issues reported by manufacturers in the Pacific Northwest is recruiting and retaining employees, particularly skilled laborers. Indeed, a majority said improving and expanding their workforce is their top priority for 2019. In addition, many companies are striving for increased diversity; the evidence is clear that companies that can effectively recruit and manage a diverse workforce do better and have a competitive advantage. 

These goals — improving recruitment, retention and diversity — can be met and, in fact, leveraged together. For example, women represent more than half of the adult population of the United States, but currently hold only about 7% of middle-skilled manufacturing jobs. Making efforts to diversify your workforce by improving recruitment and retention of diverse workers, including female workers, is a way to tap into a currently underutilized segment of the population who have knowledge, skills and potential that can add real value to your company. These are some tactics.

Think outside the box when posting jobs. Throw out preconceived notions about who might want the job or be the right “fit.” Consider posting in new and different forums that might be seen by candidates you have not traditionally reached. Write your job posting carefully to attract more diverse candidates. For example, a study on job postings found those using masculine-type words like “ambitious” and “dominate” were less appealing to female applicants.

Build new relationships that may increase your access to the best talent in the region. Try working with community colleges or other skills-certification programs to recruit new employees. The Center for Advanced Manufacturing Puget Sound, for example, has developed a progressive program called Military to Manufacturing as a way for veterans to translate the foundational skills they already have to work in environments using advanced technologies, advanced materials, international quality standards and global logistics practices.

Don’t be afraid to hire people without the right technical skills. Hire for capability and then develop people.

Focus on continuous in-house training. Consider providing monetary incentives for learning new modules or skillsets. This may only be a few cents on the dollar, but it’s a tangible goal for many employees.

Offer — and publicize — workplace policies and benefits that are appealing to diverse candidates. This could include, for example, flexible schedules, placing more importance on a company culture that emphasizes work/life balance, progressive parental-leave policies, and/or creative ways to make employees’ commute to work more feasible or affordable.

Create, endorse and enforce anti-harassment policies that do not tolerate mistreatment, harassment or discrimination against workers based on gender, race, disability or other protected characteristics. For example, the Ironworkers Union recently launched a campaign called “Be that one guy,” referring to male workers who don’t tolerate a “boys will be boys” attitude, make a special effort to challenge harassment when it happens and otherwise work to create a safe haven for women on a shop floor.

Use some or all of these best practices to position diversity as a recruitment and retention tool, and not as an afterthought, and secure a competitive advantage in the industry.

Farron Curry and Jennifer Campbell are attorneys with Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt’s Manufacturing, Distribution and Retail Group. Contact Curry at fcurry@schwabe.com or Campbell at jcampbell@schwabe.com. Click to learn more key insights from Schwabe’s survey, “The State of Manufacturing in the Pacific Northwest.” 

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