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Employee Experience HR Resources Manufacturing

How to Overcome 4 Top HR Challenges in Manufacturing

August 3, 2023
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7 min read
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COVID-19 hit the manufacturing industry hard — output fell 43% and hours worked fell 38% in Q2 of 2020, and 1.4 million jobs were lost. Pandemic-related demand incited a quick recovery. By June 2022, manufacturing employees numbered nearly 13 million in the U.S., and labor productivity was 4.7% higher than pre-pandemic levels. Now, demand is stabilizing as a result of overproduction, and as companies catch up with backlogs caused by the pandemic, experts are even indicating the possibility of layoffs.

Even so, human resources departments in the manufacturing sector are still dealing with talent shortages and retaining current employees. Job openings sit at an all-time high of 800,000, and three-quarters of manufacturing executives expect retention to be their biggest workforce challenge this year. Needless to say, HR in the manufacturing industry is facing quite a bit of uncertainty.

In addition to dealing with uncertainty, manufacturing HR teams must also navigate routine challenges that come with the territory. But one more thing is certain —your team can handle the current complexities and meet everyday demands when you prepare them with knowledge and equip them with HR software.

Keep reading for a closer look at four common manufacturing HR challenges. We’ll also share some tips on how your team can overcome HR challenges and retain more workers, stay compliant, and fill skills gaps. Look out for where technology plays a role.

Learn 4 common challenges for #HR in manufacturing and how to overcome them, including maintaining employee safety and well-being:

Challenge #1: Recruiting and Retaining Workers

This is, of course, the overarching challenge that all talent acquisition teams share —the demand to attract qualified candidates to your organization and entice current employees to stay as long as possible. But as we mentioned, it’s a major concern this year: 75% of manufacturers expect to have trouble with retention and 74% with recruitment.

HR in manufacturing companies face industry-specific recruiting and retention challenges:

  • A lack of interest in trades or negative perceptions of the industry
  • A lack of flexibility in scheduling and work environments
  • An aging workforce nearing retirement

Here are three tips that can help your HR team crush these recruiting and retention obstacles.

Tip #1: Strengthen Recruiting Strategies

Switch up your recruiting strategies to catch job seekers’ attention, reach a wider audience, and make it easy to apply. Here are some ways to get the word out and encourage applications:

  • Leverage AI-assisted content tools to write detailed, consistent job descriptions quickly.
  • Advertise job postings on social media.
  • Ensure applications are mobile-accessible.
  • Simplify the application process by cutting out unnecessary questions.
  • Test out texting tools for recruiting and candidate communication.
  • Integrate your applicant tracking system (ATS) with LinkedIn Recruiter for fast applications and easy candidate profile creation.
  • Schedule screenings fast with scheduling links automatically added to recruiters’ first contact email.

Tip #2: Revamp Employer Branding and EVP

Your employer branding and employer value proposition (EVP) draw in applicants and tell them why they should work for you. Develop compelling employer branding and an EVP that showcases your company's unique strengths.

Not sure where to start? Use talent management software to send out an employee survey and ask what drew them to your company. You can also survey new hires to find out why they chose your job offer over the competition. Then, analyze the results to get actionable insights to improve your employer branding.

Tip #3: Do Your Competitor Research

Pay attention to what your competitors are doing to understand their talent acquisition strategies and identify areas of improvement for your own. Determine their EVP, read employee review sites, and find out where they’re posting open roles to see how your approach stacks up.

Challenge #2: Maintaining Employee Safety and Well-Being

Every workplace has basic safety standards to adhere to, but manufacturing is hands-on, often involving powerful machines, chemicals, or working at heights that pose more serious safety risks. It’s also physically demanding work that poses the risk of injury. In addition to the chance of accidental injuries, workers often perform repetitive motions that can cause injury over time.

As a result, HR must ensure employees are properly trained and have access to safety-related materials. Your team should focus on building a company culture where safety is the norm and cutting corners isn’t to foster a safe work environment and prevent injuries.

Tip #4: Build an Employee Engagement Strategy

Do you know if your employees are engaged? According to Gallup, there are 64% fewer safety incidents at companies with highly engaged workers. Engagement refers to the level of involvement and enthusiasm of your employees.

#HR teams at #manufacturing companies need an #EmployeeEngagement strategy —it can lead to 64% fewer safety incidents

If they’re engaged, your workers are more likely to know and follow safety rules and call out unsafe situations they notice. They’re also less likely to be suffering from burnout — all of which create a culture of safety.

There are many proven ways to boost engagement, one of the most impactful being employee recognition. Thank your employees for their work and recognize their achievements often. The best talent management software has built-in tools that make it easy for employees to congratulate each other with virtual Shout Outs and share them company-wide.

You can also send quick one-question pulse surveys to gauge employee sentiment. With the right software, you can create and send the surveys with just a few clicks, schedule them at regular intervals, and view the results in a user-friendly dashboard.

Tip #5: Give Employee-Manager 1:1s

Regular one-on-ones can boost engagement and build trust between employees and managers. Try incorporating one-on-one meetings to:

  • Uncover more development opportunities for employees
  • Discuss performance outside of formal reviews
  • Promote a culture of workplace safety by discussing safety hazards and new regulations regularly
  • Give managers the chance check in with employees about work-life balance, job satisfaction, and provide guidance to prevent burnout

Talent management software can facilitate one-on-ones virtually, providing a space for scheduling the meetings, creating a shared agenda, and taking private notes. A cloud-based software platform is ideal for companies with field employees, multiple locations, and shift workers.

Why HR in Manufacturing Needs Performance Management

Performance management benefits in the manufacturing industry include:

  • Creating high-performers
  • Getting peer feedback
  • Breaking down department silos
  • Using data as a strategic asset

Challenge #3: Increasing Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB)

Manufacturing isn’t known for being diverse when it comes to race, gender —even age. Less than one-third of employees in the manufacturing sector are women, 78% are white, and more than half are over the age of 45. It’s no surprise that DEIB is a major factor in manufacturing companies’ strategies for attracting and retaining workers.

Focusing on increasing gender and racial diversity makes you a more competitive employer, considering the fact that 67% of job seekers say diversity at their workplace is important to them. It also means wider talent pools and a more creative, productive workforce.

Tip #6: Set and Track Goals

Without DEIB goals, there’s no way for your HR department to know if your company’s efforts are coming to fruition. Uphold your commitment to DEIB permanently by incorporating it into your talent management strategy and setting and tracking DEIB goals to keep your team and leadership accountable. HR technology helps you set and monitor those goals with easy-to-use dashboards and regular reports.

Challenge #4: Keeping Up With the Digital Transformation in Manufacturing

Manufacturing is quickly becoming a digitally-powered industry and 80% of industry CEOs plan to invest even more in tech advancements. To stay on top of manufacturing’s digital transformation, you need to hire skilled workers or train existing employees to use new technologies. To do that, you need an HR tech solution that empowers your team and helps them maximize your employee talent.

Tip #7: Upskill and Reskill Your Workforce

Employees want opportunities to grow, which also helps keep them around: 94% of employees would stay longer if their company invested in their career development. Offer upskilling and reskilling to your workforce gives them the opportunities they’re looking for. This also helps your company meet its need for skilled workers — manufacturing will have a predicted shortage of two million workers by 2030.

Tip #8: Evaluate Your HR Tech Stack

Your HR team will probably have difficulty meeting its hiring, engagement, and performance management needs if your HR tech stack doesn’t stack up. With 36% of HR professionals saying their technology isn’t sufficient for their needs, it’s worth spending the time to ensure your software is worth sticking with —or if you need a new solution entirely.

Evaluate your HR tech stack and invest in HR tech analytics to stay on top of the digital transformation and maximize employees’ talent and your team’s valuable time. The benefits of an optimized tech stack include:

  • Faster HR workflows
  • Enhanced employee experience
  • Cost savings
  • Unmatched talent insights

Download our guide to optimizing your tech stack to ensure your team is equipped with the right talent management system for the manufacturing industry.

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