How to Attract (and Retain) Manufacturing Talent

by Tory Waldron - July 19, 2018
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Talent shortages continue to challenge companies, HR professionals, and recruiters across the U.S. – and no industry feels this harder than manufacturing. According to The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte, 22% of skilled manufacturing workers are slated to retire within the next decade. That means a total of 3.4 million workers will need to enter this industry within the next 10 years. But, due to a number of factors, the industry is projected to fall two million workers short of its needs. These are startling statistics for a rapidly-growing sector that relies heavily on its broad worker base.

As technology plays an increasing role in advanced manufacturing processes, manufacturing companies that can attract, develop, and retain skilled workers may have a competitive advantage in a marketplace that rewards efficiency, skill, and rapid turnaround times.

What most workers don’t realize is that there is a wide range of salaries for those in the manufacturing industry. While some manufacturing professionals do earn as low as $25,786 for a Floor Assembler, many salaries can rise to as high as $142,593 for roles like Industrial Engineering Managers. In truth, there is a lot of room for upward mobility and compensatory growth in this sector. So, then, why is the manufacturing industry hemorrhaging talent?

What’s the Reason for this Worker Shortage?

  • The Retirement of Baby Boomers and Gen X Workers:

    As experienced workers eligible for retirement begin their exodus from the workforce, the manufacturing skills gap continues to grow.

  • Millennial Disinterest:

    It’s no secret that millennials are moving away from blue-collar jobs in favor of cozier desk jobs in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. And, in a world with rapidly-evolving technology, millennials may also be reticent to enter a field where their job has the potential to become automated (or disappear altogether).

  • Weak Manufacturing Training/Programs:

    A lack of proper training, especially safety training, leads to a revolving door of workers that don’t last longer than six months to a year due to injuries or general dissatisfaction.

  • Knowledge Gap:

    These days, manufacturing workers tend to be either baby boomer veterans on the verge of retirement or newcomers fresh out of school, as the Gen X generation – who should be in management – came of age when parents and teachers were steering kids away from what appeared to be a decelerating industry.

  • Drug Testing:

    Strict drug testing requirements sometimes deter potential applicants. That’s not to say these regulations shouldn’t be in place, but it is a discouraging factor for some who are thinking of entering the industry as it could be viewed as an invasion of privacy.

  • Failing to Provide a Path to Success:

    One of the best indicators for future success is an organization’s ability to have employees “climb a ladder” of jobs with progressively more responsibility. Many workers entering the manufacturing sector want to find a position that has a clearly-marked path toward career advancement. Unfortunately, some manufacturing organizations don’t promote from within; employees stay in their positions indefinitely without an opportunity to take on managerial responsibilities.

How Can I Attract & Retain Manufacturing Talent?

  • Compensate Fairly:

    In such a competitive industry, offering a market-competitive salary for every job is imperative for companies hoping to attract and retain top talent.
    Salary Tip: Use’s CompAnalyst platform to ensure you are meeting the market pricing of each manufacturing role. CompAnalyst helps you manage pay across the employee lifecycle to optimize recruiting, performance, talent management, and succession initiatives.

  • Create Clear, Accurate Job Descriptions:

    You need experienced, skilled candidates for niche positions, which means you’ll need to write accurate, appealing job descriptions if you want to attract them. Manufacturing organizations can source, hire, evaluate, and promote the right talent by taking an active role in job description creation and management.
    Salary Tip: With’s job description creation, it is easy to build new job descriptions with thousands of benchmark jobs, competencies, and content layouts in the library.

  • Implement Training Programs:

    It’s essential to develop workers you already have by moving them up in the ranks. Promotions and progress help build morale and increase employee engagement and retention. As older workers approach retirement, manufacturers should create knowledge transfer and mentoring programs to involve them in training the next generation to avoid facing a massive skill gap.It is also important to hold regular safety trainings to ensure no workers get hurt. Most manufacturing injuries occur during the first year, and this can have a drastic effect on whether a worker will continue pursuing a career in manufacturing. Training and regularly-monitored safety equipment should be provided to all employees who are working with heavy machinery, tools, and hazardous chemicals.

  • Get the Word Out:

    Recruiting at local community colleges and universities, or even high schools, may be a great way to reach the slippery millennial and Gen-Z populations. Most high school and college graduates have yet to decide their career paths, and many don’t even realize that a career in manufacturing might be the right choice for them.

Download White Paper – Identifying the Real Cost of Turnover:

Download our whitepaper for more information on identifying the real cost of turnover in your organization. This includes employee turnover facts, a sample costing model, calculating turnover costs, and more.

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