How To Attract And Retain Top Manufacturing Talent

Kerrie Jordan is the Group Vice President, Product Management at Epicor.

Your team is your most important investment. To be competitive in manufacturing today, you need well-managed operations, streamlined processes and data-driven strategies. But to do any of that, manufacturing companies must have the right talent in the right roles so that they can realize a future of sustainable growth and profit.

As you look to prepare for the future of manufacturing, here are some of the ways you can attract and keep great talent.

Top Skills For New Talent

Creating a great manufacturing organization starts by hiring individuals who have the skills and talents to improve and grow the organization. Here are some top skills to consider when it comes to new hires.

• Communication: Often valued above technical skills, manufacturing leaders know that great contributors are great communicators as they are likely better able to work across teams and bring issues to attention when needed.

• Problem-Solving: Manufacturing leaders are also looking for individuals who can problem-solve issues that arise and find solutions to challenges quickly, like troubleshooting why there’s downtime.

• Technical Skills: Next, manufacturing leaders will hire for technical skills and the know-how to work machinery, design processes or use advanced technology.

• Attention To Detail: Manufacturing is all about getting the details right so that you can produce high-quality products accurately through every step of the production process. Because of this, top talent is often those who pay attention to detail.

• Safety Awareness: Finally, safety is always a priority in manufacturing, especially when one OSHA violation can cost upwards of $15,625. Leaders are looking for individuals who take safety seriously.

Attracting Great Talent Through Technology And Sustainability

Prospective candidates want to be part of a company that’s moving forward, one that prioritizes modernization, new technology adoption and sustainability.

When we surveyed 600 frontline manufacturing workers, we asked: Would you leave your current company to go to another that was more focused on sustainability or technology, even if it meant taking a pay cut? Sixty percent said they would leave to go to a more technology-driven factory, and 61% said they would leave to work for one that prioritizes sustainability.

Six out of 10 manufacturing workers highly value innovative technology and sustainability efforts as part of their workplace, which would indicate that job seekers are looking for the same. According to a report by HP, 58% of workers say that sustainability will be key to engaging tomorrow’s workforce.

Additionally, the manufacturing leaders who say that their organization is “not very modern at all” are often the ones who find that their greatest challenge is hiring and retaining employees. This highlights the fact that implementing new and innovative technologies is more than just about improving production processes. When approached strategically, it can help attract great talent.

Upskilling Your Current Talent

Another way to attract new talent and retain current talent is to offer opportunities for upskilling or developing the skills that your employees have so that they can be more successful in their current roles. This is especially important for organizations that are adopting transformative technologies like automation and digitization. It’s also crucial when you consider that 2.1 million jobs may go unfulfilled by 2030 due to skills gaps. Upskilling opportunities can be offered through on-the-job training, on-site or off-site courses or through online platforms.

Creating Great Work Environments

Improving morale and engagement comes from participating in great work environments. Based on conversations with frontline manufacturing workers, I’ve found that there are a few key elements leadership can offer to improve the work environment and increase morale.

• More Paid Time Off: A major contributor to a great work environment is the paid time off they receive, whether that be for vacation, holidays, sick days or other personal time.

• Flexible Work Schedule: Having a flexible work schedule, whether this means allowing employees to create their own hours or offering the possibility of a compressed workweek, can help increase morale and improve the workplace.

• Non-Monetary Perks: It’s not uncommon for engagement to improve with the addition of non-monetary perks, like free lunches, vehicle allowances or appreciation programs.

• A Focus On Listening To Staff: Managers who listen to their employees create a more engaging work environment where everyone feels their ideas can contribute to organizational success.

• Better Tools And Technology: Finally, it’s critical that employees have the right tools and technology to do their job to the best of their ability. This can help improve the work environment and ensure everyone is positioned to perform their tasks in the most effective way.

Actively Listening To Feedback And Concerns

As stated above, employees feel more connected to their work environment when leadership listens to them. It’s important to create a culture where employees are welcome to share ideas and concerns, especially when it comes to alerting about safety issues. Inviting employees to share their suggestions on how to improve processes can be invaluable as well, as everyone should be empowered to contribute to the manufacturing process. When employees feel like they’re being heard, 74% feel more engaged and effective, and 71% feel more confident to share ideas in the future.

Listening and communicating are key to understanding what’s really going on in your organization as well, especially to get on the same page as your workers. For example, 64% of manufacturing leaders say that morale at their company is very high, yet when we talked to frontline manufacturing workers, only 52% said that morale was high—a 12% difference. This could indicate that leadership may believe morale to be higher than it actually is because they’re not actively listening and learning.

Preparing Your People For The Future Of Manufacturing

The future of manufacturing will be bright, but only if you have the right people in the right roles driving your organization forward. Hire good communicators and problem-solvers. Provide upskilling opportunities so that your workers can be more productive and efficient in their current roles. Focus on creating great work environments by offering flexible schedules, a variety of benefits, and the tools and technology your workers need. Finally, listen to their issues and concerns. All of this can help you be better prepared for your next hire and the future of your industry.

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