Changing Candidate Expectations Within Manufacturing

Candidate expectations have changed in the last 18 months due to the impact of the pandemic.

This is as much the case in the engineering and manufacturing sector as it is any other. However, the wants and needs may differ to other sectors due to industry specific restrictions.

These differences need to be highlighted from the outset. Most of the roles in engineering and manufacturing require the employee to attend the site of work. As such, the kinds of flexibility other sectors have been able to offer, like home working and flexible start times, are not applicable here.

The new normal

Workers that were able to work from home during lockdowns in 2020 and 2021 with no detriment to business output are expecting some form of hybrid or flexible working to continue. Regardless, this “new normal” must be considered in context. Flexible working is a benefit companies can offer to office-based employees. What about those that can’t work from home? They must be similarly accounted for to compete with this flexibility and the work/life balance it promotes.

Over the last 18 months some employers have looked to add a holiday or monetary bonus to factory or site-based staff. They recognise that staff cannot save time on their commute or balance home/work in the same way those working from home can. Instead, companies are focusing on the benefits they are able to offer to exceed candidate expectations.

This has allowed some companies’ pay and benefits offerings to outstrip competitors.

Candidate concerns

Companies that aren’t offering some “perk” borne out of pandemic circumstances will likely be at a disadvantage over the next year or two. Workers will soon discover other companies offering additional benefits and meeting these new candidate expectations.


Monetary and salary remuneration will always be a consideration for every employee whether they are looking to progress internally or move externally. This is apparent in the current competitive climate as companies adjust pay structures to retain staff or to acquire staff from competitors. Companies are starting to target other industries that are not as good at retaining workers, recognising the potential in transferable skills.

This is highlighted in both the above chart regarding wage increases and the below chart which highlights starting salaries for new joiners. These wages are at their highest since 2014.


Job security

Another major factor that candidates are considering is the security of their current employment. What is the state of a business they are potentially looking to join? For some, there is still the fear of the unknown due to the Covid and post-Brexit climate. Candidates are assessing if the grass is truly greener on the other side.

This consideration starts with security of the company’s finances, productivity, job book, etc. through to their ability to offer meaningful work, career development, strong training and qualifications. Ultimately, candidates want to see obvious career progression and a development plan.

Furlough, redundancies and general uncertainty in the last 18 months have caused candidates to prioritise job security. Salary alone isn’t the deciding factor now there are concerns about role redundancy. If a role may be redundant or expendable in 12 months’ time, why would a candidate risk it and move?

The recruitment process

At greenbean we are finding that candidates are more apprehensive when it comes to considering a new role. Any disruption to the recruitment process will be detrimental. For example, employers missing or rearranging interviews or candidates not receiving timely feedback. Other inconveniences such as changing salary bandings and procrastinating on delivering an offer will result in candidates looking elsewhere.

Candidates are likely to have more than one application in progress at any one time. They are in a good position as the services they offer are in high demand. As such, a smooth and positive candidate journey throughout the recruitment process is important.  This needs to be at the forefront of any employer’s future recruitment plan.

If companies are wanting to retain staff while their skills are in high demand, employers need to ensure that staff are engaged and fulfilled. Employers need to ensure that they aren’t just promoting salary, benefits, upskilling and career development to prospective new hires but also to their current staff.

Emphasis must be placed on staff appreciation. This is even more pertinent in the industrial environment where it isn’t possible to offer flexible working across the board.

Staff retention

Businesses should recognise and promote good work, learning and development opportunities, career progression plans, and genuine appreciation of staff performance. Celebrating continued success and strong performances should lead to merit-based promotion and rewards.

Companies need to look at their offering and assess whether it is competitive enough to meet changing candidate expectations. What are employees looking for? What will entice new staff? Likewise, what will keep current staff happy and motivated?

There may not be a one-size-fits-all solution. Every company will have different targets, different structures and different benefits.

Expand your offering

If you would like guidance on how you can expand your candidate offering then greenbean can help.

We’ve worked with clients and candidates within the manufacturing and engineering space throughout the pandemic. We’ve adjusted to new requirements while considering the future of the industry. We gather market intelligence to be able to provide guidance and direction to refine your recruitment goals.

Get in touch with our team here.