Think Lean: Broaden your hiring options

By Richard Kunst   

Industry Operations Manufacturing labour Lean manufacturing workforce

The labour shortage is real and likely to worsen in the immediate future, so think about hiring differently and then act.

Make attracting strong contract employees a recruitment strategy priority. PHOTO: THINKSTOCK

Make attracting strong contract employees a recruitment strategy priority.

Companies use contract employees to manage surges in production. They provide flexibility and a way to control labour costs. At one time it was common to see 20% of a workforce made up of contract workers. Now up to 95% is common. This is straining the availability of contract employees, especially good ones.

The variation in their earning potential between companies is extremely narrow, so what will lure a contract employee to your company?

First, recruit them as if you’re hiring a full-time employee. This takes time but consider it an investment: you can have the technology and the equipment, but it’s your people, including contract employees, that create your culture and capability, and this is what the customer is paying for.

Does your work environment look professional? Look around. Is your cafeteria neat, clean and organized? How about your bathrooms? Signs taped to windows, doors and walls convey a subliminal message the facility isn’t respected, which extends to people and processes.


A good visual management program doesn’t have to be expensive. The use and type of visuals you deploy is part of your brand image, so don’t be cheap.

Assign a buddy to show your new employee the ropes during the first couple of days.

Contract employees can be great auditors, especially on the first day. Debrief them at the end of the day and ask about your organization: what compelling attribute did they experience during the day that would encourage them to return? Employee churn is costly, even if it’s with your contract labour pool. Investigate why employees don’t stay.

Use a graduated compensation model so the employee has skin in the game. If a contract leaves in the first week, no compensation, then increase the percent the longer the employee stays.

The following checklist is typically used to assess full-time candidates, but some of the questions fit contract workers. Customize them to meet your company’s needs. Answer questions yes/no as indicated or use this scale: 5 = Very Good; 4 = Good; 3 = Ambivalent; 2 = Poor; 1 = Very Poor. Hire the candidates with fours and fives.

1. Pre-Screening/telephone interview. Summary of skills, accomplishments. Clear thought processes in answering the following: What prompted you to answer the ad? What kind of work environment are you looking for? Why are you looking for a new position?

2. The interview. Demonstrates the following effective characteristics: articulate; good eye contact; body language portrays interest; energetic; sense of ease; optimistic; likable; smile; enthusiastic; self-motivated; enjoys a challenge.

3. Clear thought processes in answering the following:
What skills do you bring that others don’t?
Why do you want to work for our company?
Why are you leaving your present job?
What are you looking for in a new job?
Growth areas identified from a recent evaluation?
Need for additional training?

4. Major faux pas
Applicant is late
Gets lost finding the facility
Does not know interviewer’s name
Unfamiliar with the company
Chews gum

Remember: contract employees can make choices and you want them to choose you.

Richard Kunst is president and CEO of Cambridge, Ont.-based Kunst Solutions Corp., which publishes the “Lean Thoughts” e-newsletter and helps companies implement lean solutions.

This article appears in the Jan./Feb. 2015 issue of PLANT.


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