In the manufacturing sector, for instance, job openings increased nearly threefold from 302,000 in the beginning of the pandemic to 880,000 by August of this year. Unfilled positions in trade, transport and utilities similarly went from 1.05 million to 1.94 million over the same period, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The glut of companies seeking employees dwarfs all numbers in recent memory, and is putting pressure on people in recruiting, hiring, training and retaining roles to do more to attract candidates.
While important to many employees, pay raises have not resulted in a broad return to work. Manufacturers and transport businesses are at a disadvantage in that many of their jobs cannot be done remotely, at a time when more employees are demanding remote work options. Therefore, industrial businesses may want to focus on understanding and responding to how employees feel about their social fit within an organization, whether they feel appreciated, and whether they believe the business cares about its larger social responsibility to society.
Companies may also have an opportunity right now to attract women into the workforce by providing flexible schedules, child care support, and opportunities for skills development and growth. The technology transformation in manufacturing requires more STEM skills and digital talent. Women are increasingly dominating men in college enrollment, and over the next few years two women will earn a college degree for every man if the trend continues, the executive director of the research center at the National Student Clearinghouse recently told The Wall Street Journal. Women can potentially play a greater role in addressing the digital talent gap, and companies that provide workplace policies and schedules that work for women will benefit.
Increased social unrest in recent years, coupled with people reassessing their jobs during the pandemic, has shone a spotlight on business to provide an appropriate response. Many companies have taken steps in the right direction. For example, job titles such as “head of diversity” grew by 107% between 2015 and 2020, according to global LinkedIn data. However, turnover in these roles is high—an average stay is three years, per LinkedIn—with a key issue being lack of commitment and support from management.
Employees and job seekers want their employers to be socially aware and have inclusive and diverse workforces. Company commitment to a strong culture and an employee’s belief that the company is genuinely committed to them can make a difference in their decision to join and stay, even when things get bumpy.
Both public and private companies must embrace the fact that business commitment to ESG is increasingly becoming mainstream, and that stakeholders evaluate ESG efforts as part of their engagement with a company.
Corporate governance, or the “G” in ESG, pertains to the governance factors of decision-making within a company and includes business ethics and risk management. While environmental and social matters appear on the front burner for most organizations, governance practices play a significant role in how companies respond to key ESG issues. As such, insufficient governance practices can have a negative impact on the bottom line and investment decisions, and proper governance should be considered a critical foundation in an organization’s operations.
Lastly, both public and private companies must embrace the fact that business commitment to ESG is increasingly becoming mainstream, and that stakeholders evaluate ESG efforts as part of their engagement with a company.
Investment decisions and company valuations in M&A deals will be influenced in no small part by ESG standards. Here are some key ESG considerations for manufacturing leadership teams:
- Alongside ongoing signs of economic recovery, deal activity within the industrials space has remained strong in 2021. This trend is expected to continue through the remainder of the year, with ESG being a key factor in evaluating the attractiveness of assets in M&A going forward.
- With this increased ESG focus, middle market industrial organizations should consider a proactive approach to ESG. This would include developing and evaluating ESG strategies and programs, which will be critical to long-term competitive success, affecting financial results and investment decisions.
Middle market industrial organizations need to begin assessing and establishing their baseline ESG metrics and performance if they haven’t already, and then put programs in place to continually show progress over time.