Manufacturing companies across North America are feeling the squeeze of a labor shortage that continues to intensify. According to 2022 data, the turnover rate in the manufacturing industry is about 40%. That means manufacturers are losing two of every five workers.
The workforce is also aging, and on top of this, the median age is already older than the average worker — 44.3 years for manufacturing workers, compared to 42.3 for all workers.
It all adds up to a widening void in the workforce, and unfortunately, the manufacturing industry on the whole is not attracting enough young skilled workers to fill it. According to the National Association of Manufacturers, there will be an estimated 2.1 million job openings in manufacturing by 2030, but the skilled labor pool will fall well short of that.
It’s already happening. A recent survey by the Manufacturing Institute revealed that 93% of respondents had unfilled positions within their companies and were struggling to find qualified applicants. In the same survey, manufacturers cited attracting and retaining a quality workforce as their top concern.
So, how can manufacturing companies respond? What can they do in their recruiting and retention efforts to find and keep the best talent? After working with thousands of frontline workers, here are some of our insights.
Benefits become increasingly important for attracting and retaining great workers. These include things like health insurance, retirement benefits and sick leave, but also bonuses, additional income opportunities, flexible work hours, and more. This is a concept our team at WorkHound has discussed at length.
In a recent webinar with ATRI (American Transportation Research Institute), WorkHound CEO Max Farrell said employers need to be thinking about building a culture that goes beyond traditional benefits. “I think we’re reaching a point of what I’d call ‘benefits plus,’” said Max. “Health, dental and 401k in this day and age are table stakes. Carriers should be building benefits packages that serve the needs of the whole worker.”
In response to market demands, many manufacturers have reported increasing compensation several times in the past two years. Average hourly earnings for production and nonsupervisory workers in manufacturing have climbed to $24.78 as of March 2023, up 5.5% from one year ago. To remain competitive, manufacturers need to find ways to keep up with wage increases. And while that might sound intimidating, research shows there are many benefits to increasing pay.
Of course, pay isn’t everything. Even in these linked examples, researchers are quick to point out that pay is only one component of the bigger picture, and that it has a ceiling in terms of value. Once you hit that threshold of money, it’s up to the company to build a culture that will satisfy the needs of workers long-term.
To put it another way: Wage increases and benefits are definitely pillars of the conversation, but long-term success is only possible when the company culture is capable of supporting everyone within the workforce. And the only way to do that is to engage everyone within the workforce. How can you know how to meet their needs if you don’t know what those needs are?
Max Farrell explains how intentional listening can be transformative. “I refer to [it] as a Culture of Curiosity,” says Max. “Instead of simply accepting that ‘things are the way they are,’ I think we have a chance to create fundamentally better businesses by getting feedback, doing something with it, and letting frontline workers know how they’re being supported.”
At WorkHound, we leverage the power of anonymous feedback to engage with workers every week, giving manufacturers, trucking companies, and other frontline employers the opportunity to solve workplace problems in real-time, and keep workers engaged. We’ve helped customers reduce turnover by as much as 20% and improve retention rates to 90% and higher.
By listening intently, frontline employers are able to better understand the needs of their workforce and better respond. They’re able to intervene in issues where an employee might otherwise quit, and solve problems they wouldn’t have otherwise even known about. This engagement keeps workers invested in the company and their role in it, boosting productivity, morale, and job satisfaction.
To learn more about how WorkHound is helping manufacturers engage their workforces and retain top talent, contact us today for a free retention strategy.