Recruiting Strategies–The Parking Lot Method

At Horst Engineering, we use a mix of strategies to recruit skilled manufacturing personnel. In a tight labor market, you have to try new tactics. Since the market for precision machined aerospace components is a cyclical one, we go through periods where it is nearly impossible to attract new workers for processes like Swiss screw machining, turning, and milling. The aging manufacturing workforce and lack of youth interested in metal-working careers, combined with the latest market “boom” has made this particular cycle even more challenging. This year, we copied what many other companies have done for years, and instituted a referral bonus program.

A recent incident raises a lot of questions about recruiting ethics. Our industry faces enough external challenges, including the big time threats of low cost sourcing and high costs (e.g. raw  materials, energy, labor, etc.), that we shouldn’t have to worry about our local peers/customers/suppliers “cherry picking” some of our loyal associates. Still, the advent of “signing bonuses” and the proliferation of referral programs has driven some odd behavior.

We had heard of other companies being subject to “parking lot” recruiting tactics, but recently, we discovered first hand for ourselves. A former employee, who would have received a large incentive from his new employer, waited for a shift to end, and then solicited current Horst employees to jump ship and join his company. It has to be understood that credibilty is important if this tactic is going to work, and there are questions about how effective the former employee was at convincing folks to leave Horst. However, these rogue tactics can give an industry peer a bad name, even if they don’t advocate the method.

I was thinking how we might handle it if our own incentive program drove one of our employees to use this aggressive approach without us knowing it. Right now, that seems like a hypothetical question, but it is on my mind. After 61 years in business, we have cultivated a value set that leads me to believe that no  matter how desperate we might be for help, we woudn’t try to poach an employee from an industry peer that we work with as a customer, supplier, and industry group partner. In the past, we have turned away good candidates if they didn’t seem sincere about leaving their employer regardless of whether they were to join Horst. Let’s only hope that our values rub off on others.

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