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3 Strategies to Help Manufacturing Win the War for Talent

Working in manufacturing has changed tremendously. Along with the increased attractiveness of work in alternate industries such as technology, consulting, and the gig economy, the manufacturing workforce is aging, and employers must compete now more than ever before for skilled manufacturing talent. Research by Deloitte has found that the manufacturing skills gap may leave an estimated 2.4 million positions unfilled through the year 2028. In addition, a Manpower survey revealed that 81 percent of manufacturing leaders said that they struggled to get the talent they needed, and 71 percent believed the talent gap would only continue to increase in severity.

To address the challenges of attracting and building a highly skilled manufacturing workforce, there are specific actions companies can take to win the war for talent and be well-positioned for growth in this ever-evolving industry.
Learn how to attract and retain top talent in the manufacturing industry with  this guide.

Appeal to Multiple Generations

As baby boomers retire, subsequent generations will be relied upon to fill the manufacturing positions of tomorrow. However, one study found that fewer than five in 10 Americans surveyed believe manufacturing jobs are interesting and rewarding, and fewer than three in 10 would encourage their children to pursue a manufacturing career. Those perceptions can be shifted when manufacturing employers showcase the many opportunities to lead challenging and rewarding careers in manufacturing. To widen the appeal of manufacturing to newer generations, companies can start by:

  • Developing relationships with schools and universities to introduce students early to manufacturing career options
  • Establishing apprenticeship and internship programs
  • Leveraging social media to build an employer brand that highlights opportunities for young talent

When prospective candidates see that today’s careers in manufacturing are not just assembly lines and that they offer opportunities to work with new technologies such as robotics, Internet of Things (IoT), and machine learning, manufacturing will hold more appeal for new generations of talent.

Reinvigorate Learning and Development

Just as in other industries, the need for reskilling and knowledge upgrades is strong in manufacturing. But building technical skills so that individuals are capable of meeting current and future company objectives isn’t the only way to develop manufacturing talent. Soft skills in areas such as leadership, communication, critical thinking, and process management are also key. In fact, one study found that the No. 1 action surveyed manufacturers were taking to develop talent was offering leadership and management training. Manufacturers can build employee soft skills and refocus efforts on employee learning and development by:

  • Developing a competency framework and a plan for developing those competencies among the workforce
  • Establishing recognition programs for individuals who build and demonstrate desired skills
  • Creating mentorship programs that enable experienced individuals to impart valuable knowledge to new employees

Help Employees Manage Change

The manufacturing industry has undergone great change, and more is likely coming as new technologies emerge and customer expectations continue to evolve. When employees have the knowledge and skills to effectively manage the changes occurring in a manufacturing environment, they will have a greater chance to grow in engagement and confidence in their ability to sustain a successful manufacturing career. Therefore, manufacturers can win the war for talent by building employee change management competencies and taking the following actions: 

  • Equipping leaders with the knowledge and skills to coach and lead others through change
  • Developing a culture that celebrates and rewards individuals who embrace change
  • Involving employees and incorporating their feedback into process automation and process improvement planning activities

Highly skilled manufacturing talent remains a requirement for a thriving society, but manufacturers must shift the focus to include new generations and focus on upskilling talent for the future. By ensuring employees have the mindset and skills to manage change and operate in an increasingly digital and automated environment, manufacturing organizations can win the war for talent.

Download Guide: Manufacturing and the Employee Experience


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Since 1991, John has acquired extensive experience in the design and delivery of a diverse portfolio of programs. In addition to his executive responsibilities as President of Leadership and Learning Events, John is considered a valued partner to many executive teams. His insight and experience enable him to effectively diagnose, design, and implement complex culture change initiatives in a collaborative and engaging manner. Moreover, John’s experience in global implementations allows him to draw from a deep well of history to create unique and customized solutions. John’s passion for developing people makes him a sought after speaker, partner and coach and is evident in the high praise he receives from clients.

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