Strategies for Retaining a Quality Workforce in Manufacturing

As global markets have been upended by conflict and economic instability, manufacturers are cautiously navigating rising costs for materials and labor, supply chain volatility, and changing workplace dynamics. And data shows they’re feeling it all. 

According to the 2023 First Quarter Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey, the primary business challenge is attracting and retaining a quality workforce (74.1%), followed by increased raw material prices (60.1%), and supply chain challenges (55.8%).

Fortunately, it’s not all bad headlines out there. There are plenty of practical strategies that manufacturers can deploy to address these issues and make corrections within their own workplaces. While every firm is different, generally speaking, there are a few common pillars of culture that can greatly impact employee retention, particularly in manufacturing

Here are a few we’ve seen in action that have helped our customers transform their company culture. 

Improving Your Onboarding and Hiring Process 

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so the saying goes. When onboarding new hires, you have a unique opportunity to invite new workers into your organization and introduce them to your company, your values, and the fruits of their labor. 

It’s critically important to design a hiring process that gets your employees up to speed with their work quickly and efficiently and gives them the tools they need to grow with the organization. Frontline employees are often operating in a field or production environment, meaning they don’t have a computer to email questions, and they can’t just take a walk to another cubicle. Onboarding should be a thoughtful process that considers not just the needs of the job, but the needs of the worker. 

More than this, it’s important to make sure employees know their value and can feel proud of their contributions to the organization. These first impressions will last throughout their tenure; it’s one of the best opportunities you have to positively impact their perspective. 

Maintaining Competitive Wages 

According to the Manufacturing Engagement and Retention Study conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), one of the primary reasons employees stay with their employer is because of financial stability and job security. Competitive wages are essential for attracting top talent in any field, but especially so in manufacturing where skilled labor is so often hard to come by. In a tough labor market, it’s essential to invest in livable wages and consider the overall worker experience. 

And while it can sound intimidating to boost wages, research continues to show it is an investment that delivers a return. Increased pay can boost productivity, help attract more skilled talent, and even improve engagement and morale.  

By offering competitive salaries and pay rates, manufacturers can ensure they’re able to attract and retain top talent who will help their organizations thrive and grow. 

Building Clear Career Development Opportunities

Employees want more than just a paycheck. The APA study found that career development opportunities were one of the most important factors when it came to employee retention (77%). These opportunities are not only about job promotions, either. They might include providing access to training programs or mentorship opportunities or offering tuition reimbursement or other educational benefits. By focusing on developing the person, manufacturers will inherently develop the worker, giving rise to a workforce that is proud of their skills and contributions and feels continually valued by their managers and leadership teams. This kind of positive work culture helps employees reach their full potential while increasing loyalty and engagement among the entire workforce.

“Stay Studies”

The sort-of antithesis to exit interviews, so-called “stay studies” are used to understand why people stay at a company, helping leadership teams identify the reasons people like their jobs and potential drivers for why they might leave it. These studies also help illuminate upcoming changes and opportunities that may increase employee retention rates. By surveying current employees about their job satisfaction levels, manufacturers can make informed decisions about how best to improve employee retention rates going forward. 

WorkHound for Regular Check-ins

Theoretically, stay studies can be helpful tools to understand workplace dynamics. However, they can be quite time-consuming to produce and execute. While they provide data for generalized planning, they don’t usually provide immediate solutions to problems that are currently happening. Because of these reasons, these studies are often reserved as quarterly or even annual planning tasks, making them helpful for overarching goal planning but not that useful for day-to-day problem-solving. 

With WorkHound, companies have an opportunity to check in with frontline workers every week, capturing sentiments right from the workforce itself in real time. With this data, employers are able to solve problems in real time too, supporting their workforce, improving morale, and ultimately building a better company culture. With WorkHound, employees stay engaged and feel heard, giving them pride in their work and careers for years to come.  

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