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Matt Fieldman


Six Words That Will Improve Your Employee Recruitment

Hint: They’re not about wages or benefits

Published: Wednesday, February 23, 2022 - 12:01

Up and down busy streets nationwide, the same six-word banners stand outside in front of hundreds of businesses. Affixed to poles on front lawns or hanging above entrance doors, these inescapable banners, while the numbers may vary, almost always have the same wording: “Now Hiring! $18/hour, plus benefits.” “Join Our Team Today! $16/hour” “Start Today! $17/hour plus healthcare.”

The problem? These banners aren’t working. These six words—umpteen dollars per hour plus benefits—have lost all their meaning in a world with a talent shortage and simply not enough workers.

Put simply, $18 per hour plus benefits is table stakes. That’s what today’s employees are expecting, and you’re just another face in a crowd when you advertise only your starting salary. Would you eat at a restaurant that proclaims, “Eat here today! We have food!”? Would you go to a movie because of a tagline that reads, “Something to do for two hours!”? Would you travel to a country that advertises, “Visit here—we’re not your house!”?

Of course not.

So, think about it: If you get a potential candidate’s attention on your banner for five seconds, why would you advertise the least interesting aspect of working for your company?

Let’s face it, your six-word banner has been failing you, and it’s time to move on.

The solution? Shake up your employee recruitment banner. Six-word stories have an incredible power to engage people, cutting through the clutter with a concise, poignant message. So stop advertising your manufacturing business like a commodity and start pushing what makes manufacturing exciting. Before today ends, go online and order yourself a banner that proudly proclaims:

“Make Cool Stuff with Awesome People.”

Want to riff on this? No problem. You could be more specific with something like, “Build Medical Equipment Alongside Amazing Colleagues.” Or maybe switch it up with, “Join Incredible Doers Developing Cool Technologies.” Or consider driving home the local aspect: “Connect with Cool Clevelanders Constructing Computers.” Feel free to use whatever works best for your business, but keeping it short and simple is critical. Couple it with an outstanding recruitment video that follows this script, and you’ve got yourself a vastly improved employee recruitment strategy for 2022.

Six words to stand behind

Why do I stand behind these six words? I’ll let the research speak for itself.

First, the “Make Cool Stuff” answers the critical question, “Why should I work here?” Yes, you may be a tier 4 supplier to an automotive or aerospace OEM, but tying that gasket or fixture to a cool end product (for example, a car or airplane) is absolutely critical to your recruitment marketing. As one CEO put it recently, employees “want to work for companies that have a mission and a purpose that they believe in.” Plus, those three words add clarity, saying to potential applicants, “If you want to make cool stuff, join our team, because that’s what we do here. If you’re more interested in healthcare, or law, or some other more intangible industry, that’s fine, too, but save us both time and effort and don’t apply to work here because you won’t be happy.”

The second part, “with Awesome People,” addresses two essential components that today’s employees are demanding. Research shows that workers want to join an inclusive, accepting community. If you’re going to get people off their couches, or to stop working from home, you have to give them what every human seeks: new and meaningful relationships.

At the same time, workers want recognition for their efforts. As one article discussed, we’re moving from “The Great Resignation” to “The Great Retention,” and retaining workers is all about recognizing employees for their efforts. Every gesture counts, so why not call out your amazing workforce right there on the employment banner that hangs outside your plant 24/7? Using just those three words, you can clearly demonstrate your respect and appreciation for your employees. This says a lot, not just to a potential candidate but also to the workers you rely on every day.

Of course, attracting that applicant is just the first step. The Great Recognition is not just about improved marketing. It’s also about improving your workplace and becoming an “employer of choice.” For example, back up your “awesome people” claim by encouraging personal and career development through apprenticeships and other learning opportunities; attract the best people by offering flexible shifts and benefits that people actually want; and make sure to invest in that sense of community through employee resource groups and team events. As I’ve argued in the past, workplace development is the new workforce development, and 2022 is the year of investing in your workplace. But it starts with attracting people’s attention. A banner that talks about why someone should join—and advertising the inclusive, supportive community they’re joining—is a great start.

So don’t delay. Order that banner today, display it prominently, and let the employment applications start rolling in.

First published January 28, 20022, on NIST's Manufacturing Innovation blog.


About The Author

Matt Fieldman’s picture

Matt Fieldman

Matt Fieldman is executive director of America Works, a nationwide initiative to coordinate the American manufacturing industry’s training efforts, generating a more capable, skilled, and diverse workforce. Based at MAGNET: The Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network, Fieldman works across the nation’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) system to increase collaboration, efficiency, and impact of local and regional workforce development efforts. Previously, he was vice president of external affairs for MAGNET, a nonprofit that helps Northeast Ohio’s small and medium-sized manufacturers grow locally while competing globally. 


table stakes

Matt, as a thought experiment, please try to do all of the following on $16/hr ($2000/month) in the American city of your choice:

  • Rent a clean, safe 1-bedroom apartment.  Or go crazy like our grandparents did and pay the mortgage, taxes, and upkeep on a modest 1800 sq ft house.  Get some internet service along with that if you want.
  • Drive a reliable, fully insured vehicle.
  • Eat 3 square meals a day.
  • Pay for some non-covered ongoing medical expense.
  • Go on a nice date with your girl every other weekend.
  • Save enough money to have a fun 1-week vacation every year.
  • Save enough money to fund your retirement at age 62.

How's that working out so far?  Not so easy, right?

But wait, someone just stole your catalytic converter so here's a $2500 sudden expense.  And ugh, you slipped on the icy stairs and broke your leg.  Lucky you, though, you only have to pay $8000 to meet your medical deductible!  But it's February and you haven't spent anything towards it yet, so here's the entire $8k now due.  Oh, wait, your employer only lets you work 39 hours a week so you're not eligible for their health insurance plan?  Dang, bummer there.  Well, I guess you'll figure something out.

Do you see that $16/hr isn't even table stakes any more for people who just want to live a normal life?  Now try throwing a child or two into that mix of expenses.  Or am I just a raging socialist for thinking that someone who works a full time job should be able to live a comfortable (not extravagant) life, not having to constantly worry about when the other shoe is going to drop (e.g., when the rent is going up by another $100 again).

People aren't applying for these jobs, not because the slogan isn't catchy enough, but because they are just weary of trying to scratch out a living with no clear vision of when or how it's going to get better for them.  People need money to live on, Matt.  They could give a rip if they work with "cool" people or "exciting" technologies."  Cool doesn't pay the bills.