How to Support Your Manufacturing Workforce Amid Today’s Labor Market

Useful strategies for helping your HR and management teams hire and retain employees

| Updated: Jan 07, 2022
How to Support Your Manufacturing Workforce Amid Todays Labor Market


It’s no secret that manufacturing organizations have supported rising demand for goods during the pandemic—from food and personal care products to items that have helped people cope with being at home for extended periods. While shop floors and assembly lines have needed to operate at full steam, the rising number of open job postings shows that the demand for manufacturing workers has continued to exceed supply.

Managing the continuous cycle of hiring new employees and losing others to retirement, pandemic-related health concerns, or work in another industry can quickly take its toll on managers and your HR team.

The good news is there are ways to take action to support your team and help them successfully manage turnover and the increase in open positions.

Manufacturing hiring and retention remain a challenge

The shortage of workers to fill manufacturing jobs is nothing new, but it has grown during the pandemic. In fact, demand for manufactured goods during the pandemic has resulted in a 37-year high in manufacturing activity. However, at the same time that manufacturers have needed to hire more workers to keep up with demand, they have also lost employees during the pandemic. According to the EmployBridge 2021 Voice of the Blue-Collar Employee Survey, more employees said they left their last job due to pandemic-related reasons than any other reason.


The rise in demand for goods combined with manufacturing employees leaving their jobs has resulted in a massive manufacturing talent shortage.

According to joint research by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute, of the estimated four million manufacturing jobs that will need to be filled between 2020 and 2030, 2.1 million of them will remain empty.

While increasing your hiring activity is a valuable way to meet production goals and keep your organization running optimally, the competition is likely to get more fierce as other manufacturers post open positions. According to new Indeed research, production and manufacturing job postings have nearly doubled since the start of the pandemic, rising from roughly 166,000 in February 2020 to over 316,000 in April 2021. Therefore, in addition to hiring, you’ll also need to take steps to retain your existing workforce.


Ways to support your team amid increased hiring activity

While your HR team is busy posting open jobs and hiring new employees, there are actions you can take to keep your existing employees and potentially limit the number of additional job openings you’ll need to fill.

Take these steps to support your team and retain your workforce:

  • Use available technology to streamline the hiring and onboarding process

  • Look for ways to improve the employee experience

  • Evaluate your company’s culture

Use available technology to streamline the hiring and onboarding process

In a fast-moving recruiting environment, your HR team can benefit from using modern automation tools to improve efficiency and fill positions faster. For example, a modern applicant tracking system helps recruiters and hiring managers keep track of candidates and their availability. Moreover, you can automate the onboarding process with software or a text-based portal that makes it easy for new hires to upload and sign forms, elect benefits, and see their pay information.

Look for ways to improve the employee experience

Many factors can impact employee experiences at work for good (or bad). In fact, an employee’s desire to stay or leave is influenced by factors such as shift assignments, pay, relationship with a supervisor, and opportunities for growth.

To understand which factors matter to your employees and how to improve their experiences at work, you can show you’re listening by conducting routine surveys and considering their feedback carefully.

Are you reaching your employees and sharing the information they need to be engaged and productive at work? Perhaps there are new ways you can improve internal processes, communication, and training opportunities.

Evaluate your company culture

When employees were asked in a recent survey to name their top reason for staying with a company the longest, work schedule and company culture were highest on the list, outranking pay.


To build a positive culture your employees won’t want to leave, examine your existing practices such as communication between supervisors and employees, training opportunities, and how you assign schedules and overtime. Many organizations are also taking a closer look at supporting their manufacturing employees’ mental health.

Examining these areas can help you determine if, for example, your current practices support employee needs for work-life balance or if they make employees feel burned out and ready to quit.

Though having some regrettable turnover is unavoidable, your manufacturing operations require an approach that helps you keep existing workers and hire, where needed, to meet consumer demand.

By supporting your employees and helping your HR team hire more efficiently, you’ll be in a better position to keep your operations fully staffed and productive.

Melanie Haniph is an HR content writer and talent management expert. In addition to her experience leading HR initiatives for large and small organizations, she writes on a range of talent management topics for senior executive, HR, and jobseeker audiences.

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