10 Things Every Employer in Manufacturing Should Know

Written by Madisyn Villamil

Manufacturing employers are facing a critical talent shortage. Up to 2.1 million manufacturing jobs could go unfilled by 2030. There are a few things every employer in manufacturing should know when it comes to addressing this talent crisis.

The manufacturing industry is rapidly evolving, and employers are looking for talent with a broad range of competencies, including technical expertise and soft skills. However, the growing skills gap and misconceptions about manufacturing jobs create roadblocks for employers.

Manufacturing companies must build a robust, forward-thinking strategy to attract, retain, and develop employees. First, we’ll analyze how manufacturing work is transforming. Then, we’ll look at ten things every employer in manufacturing should know when building a skilled workforce.

How is Manufacturing Work Changing?

The days of dark, dirty, and unsafe factory work are long gone.  In the last century, the manufacturing industry has come a long way to become safe, regulated, and technologically advanced.

Despite these changes, the general public still carries biased opinions toward manufacturing work. Many believe manufacturing workers only need rough hands, a strong back, and the ability to perform repetitive, labor-intensive tasks. This opinion couldn’t be further from the truth and is partly responsible for an increasing skills gap and labor shortage in the industry.

89% of manufacturing executives agree there’s a talent shortage in the industry, and 45% say they’ve turned down business opportunities due to a lack of workers.

“The pandemic has raised awareness of the essential role of manufacturing in our lives. We are now at a watershed moment when a new wave of workers is needed to further advance our use of technology and maintain U.S. economic competitiveness. This industry is critical to bolstering our economy long term.”

— Paul Wellener, Vice Chair and U.S. Industrial Products and Construction Leader, Deloitte LLP

The manufacturing talent crisis and lack of skilled workers is something we can’t ignore. The industry has touched almost everything we use in our daily lives—computers, ventilators, medical devices, phones, and cars.

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Many people believe manufacturing work is low-skilled when in reality, it requires advanced technical skills and training. STEM skills, analytical skills, mechanical skills, critical thinking, and problem-solving are just some of the competencies manufacturing employees need.

10 Things Every Employer in Manufacturing Should Know

Manufacturing companies are focused on attracting, retaining, and developing talent to stay competitive and continue scaling their businesses. Here are ten things every employer in manufacturing should know when building a skilled workforce.

1. Skills Development Wins the Long Game

New technological advancements and emerging competitors stress the importance of employee skills development. Relying on new talent to bring advanced skills to your organization isn’t sustainable, and eventually, their skills will need updating, too.

Ongoing skills development keeps your workers at the top of their game and reduces the cost of continuously recruiting and onboarding new employees. An L&D department that sets goals for upskilling employees and develops ongoing training programs can expand your workers’ skill sets.

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On-the-job training is critical to skills development in manufacturing. Because manufacturing work is very hands-on and mistakes can lead to safety issues, a learning-by-doing approach with knowledgeable instructors ensures employees can apply their skills. Mentoring, coaching, and job shadowing programs are effective strategies for on-the-job skills development.

2. Cross-Training is Key

There are many steps to manufacturing a final product, and you don’t want the entire process to halt if one employee is absent. For more efficiency and flexibility, consider cross-training your employees to step in for coworkers in other functions.

One of the most vital skills in manufacturing is problem-solving. Cross-trained employees have a broader range of skills, which helps them adapt to change and find unique solutions to problems.

By promoting knowledge-sharing, cross-training also helps employees learn skills they can apply to their own roles. Leadership can make smarter decisions about promotions and internal mobility if an employee shows enthusiasm for learning new skills and thrives in another position.

3. STEM Skills Make Up Most of the Skills Gap

Manufacturing has become increasingly technology-driven, meaning workers with advanced STEM skills are in high demand. Skills in machine learning, AI, and software development are in short supply, and employers are paying a high price for them. STEM workers with a bachelor’s degree have a 47% higher median salary than non-STEM workers with a bachelor’s degree.

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Manufacturing employers should strategically upskill their workforce in STEM without paying the high price for STEM-educated new hires. One way to do so is by developing STEM training programs or reimbursing tuition for employees pursuing higher education in these areas. These initiatives will help close the most critical part of the skills gap and ensure your company stays ahead.

4. Positive Employee Experience Builds a Loyal Workforce

Employee experience (EX) is how your workers perceive the total of their experiences with your company through every step of their employee journey. Positive EX is crucial to attracting and retaining top talent.

Cater to Younger Generations

The manufacturing workforce is aging, and young people are shying away from the industry due to misconceptions about the work environment and compensation. Employers should cater to younger generations and demonstrate how this line of work can fit their lifestyles. Flexible work schedules, L&D opportunities, high salaries, and positive company culture are all top priorities for Gen Z and Millennial employees.

Create Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance is increasingly important for employees, and the Great Resignation showed us they’re not afraid to leave their companies to find it elsewhere. Invest in employee well-being and scheduling flexibility to foster a positive EX.

Invest in DEI

In the 2021 Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute DEI study, 63% of surveyed manufacturers link the business benefits of DEI to an enhanced ability to attract, retain, and develop talent. Manufacturing employers have a low percentage of women and minority workers compared to other industries.

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Look to enhance the diversity and equity in your business by being mindful of biases and developing a culture of inclusivity from the top down. Creating a culture of inclusivity can help expand your number of job applicants and improve EX.

5. Over-Communicating is Better Than Under-Communicating

Communication is vital across the board for attracting and retaining talent. When it comes to the recruiting process, communication and transparency are key. Candidates want to know exactly what they can expect in the role and what skills and competencies they need to succeed.

recent survey found that nearly one in three new hires quit their job in the first 90 days, and the number one reason was that the day-to-day role was not as expected. Market your roles well and review your job descriptions to ensure they’re realistic and up to date.

It’s also important to have honest conversations with employees about their performance, professional development goals, and challenges. Employees appreciate open and honest communication. Some things you can do to open the lines of communication at your organization are:

  • Weekly check-ins between managers and their team members
  • Surveys on additional training employees want to receive
  • Performance evaluations and goal-setting
  • Ask employees if they want to move into a leadership role in their career and give them the resources and training they need to get there

6. The Metaverse is Here—Ready or Not

Metaverse technologies are changing the manufacturing industry as we know it. Forward-thinking manufacturing employers are investing in virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) for:

  • Inventory management
  • Product design and development
  • Digital twins
  • Safe employee training
  • Factory floor planning
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Investing in these disruptive technologies gives employees the tools they need for innovation, efficiency, and safety. One of the most important things every employer in the manufacturing should know is how to leverage immersive technology. VR is already giving many companies a competitive edge in recruiting and overall business performance.

If you haven’t already, now is the time to take the first steps toward implementing immersive technologies in your organization. Edsutia can develop and deliver onboarding, upskilling, and team-building programs for your employees in VR.

7. Workplace Safety Can Make or Break Your Business

Workplace accidents result in costly legal bills and take an emotional toll on your team. Today, employees are prioritizing their physical and mental well-being more than ever.

Giving employees a safe, clean environment is crucial when competing for talent. Although safety has come a long way in the manufacturing industry, there’s always room for improvement. During the interview process, ensure you’re hiring safety-conscious employees by asking about their history with safety regulations and what they would do if they saw a violation.

Ongoing safety training and audits also ensure safety stays top of mind at your organization.

8. Investing in Quality Tools and Materials Pays Off

Investing in quality tools and materials pays off in more than one way. Not only will your company produce higher quality products, but your employees will be grateful, too.

When manufacturers are hit with recalls and defect repairs due to low-quality tools and materials, employees can feel discouraged and the company may lose business. If the tools you use don’t hold up, you’ll end up with a frustrated team and poor productivity. Allocating a higher budget to quality tools and materials will pay off with better products, efficiency, and employee morale.

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9. Scalability Starts on Day One

If one of your goals is to scale your manufacturing business, establishing efficient processes from day one can make scaling easier for your team. Employees pressured to achieve higher production levels with no defined processes or resources will eventually feel overwhelmed.

Manufacturers tend to focus on achieving higher outputs, but without the right strategies in place, forcing scalability can lead to frustrated, unhappy employees. Design all business processes with future growth in mind. When you implement a new procedure, method, or system, think, “as my business grows, will this be sustainable for my employees?”

Another limitation of scalability is talent. Plan proactively from day one for the amount of talent you will need as your company grows and what skills they should have. A long-term plan for onboarding and upskilling employees will help scale your business effectively.

10. Experimentation Leads to Discovery

Experimentation is trying something new and understanding the outcome is unpredictable. Unpredictability is scary for many organizations, especially manufacturing businesses who need to achieve specific production goals with little room for hiccups. However, experimentation is how businesses discover new technologies or processes that increase efficiency.

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Build a culture of experimentation and encourage both leaders and junior employees to share new ideas. If you want to experiment with a new idea, start on a small scale and collect data to analyze the results. Then, put systems and resources in place that allow for large-scale experimentation.

This process of experimentation can lead to the discovery of best practices, business solutions, and profitable technologies for your manufacturing business. All powerful, long-standing companies use experimentation to grow, improve, and build an engaged workforce.

10 Things Every Employer in Manufacturing Should Know: Wrap-Up

The growing talent shortage in manufacturing means employers must establish effective recruiting strategies and L&D programs to stay competitive. To remain competitive, manufacturing employers must invest in corporate learning, employee experience, and immersive technology.

Edstutia can help your organization create new onboarding, upskilling, and cross-training programs with VR to build a skilled and engaged workforce. In VR, employees learn up to four times faster and are significantly more focused than in traditional learning methods.

Learn more about our Enterprise Solutions and how Edstutia can help you create efficient and impactful training programs with VR.