All industries experience a natural degree of employee churn and the manufacturing industry is no different. In fact, the sector is challenged by a relatively high turnover of about 37%. This situation is giving rise to a hiring crisis, and is of real concern to employers across the globe. According to a study conducted by McKinsey & Company 64% of companies grapple with staff turnover or attrition risk.

A shortage of workers often leads to overworked employees and low morale, which can contribute to the rotating door effect. So, before we delve into the various ways to reduce staff turnover, it is important to look at the key causes of this distressing trend.

Drivers of Attrition

Employees leave organisations for a host of different reasons. Often it is the cumulative effective of a number of demotivating factors that drive them to the exit. Some of the pain points in this regard include:

1. Poor onboarding and training for new hires

Employees who are not properly trained during their onboarding process are unlikely to succeed in their roles. What’s more, the onboarding process is often the sole opportunity for training in the absence of regular skills development. In the 2020 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends Study, 75% of industrial organisations identified upskilling their workforce as important or very important for their success over the next year, but only 10% said they were ready to address this need. The importance of this activity should not be underestimated as this is often viewed by employees as the key to organic progression within a role.

2. Lack of job security and career growth

When manufacturing roles offer employees limited or no opportunities to advance in their careers it can lead to increased attrition where employees might feel uncertain about their job security and their future with an organisation. This has the potential to culminate in employees experiencing very low fulfilment and job satisfaction.

3. Mismanaged candidate expectations

Misaligned expectations lead to applicants who – from day one – do not have a clear understanding of what working in a specific manufacturing role entails. This can quickly lead to disillusionment and result in employees planning their exit within a very short period of joining a company.

4. A toxic workplace

In the manufacturing industry, employees are sometimes exposed to unsafe or otherwise physically dangerous working conditions. In these situations, the employer is not only violating safety standards, but can actively be driving employees away.

On a peer-to-peer level, cultural factors can contribute to a toxic work environment. Whether it is micromanagement, hostile peers, or a generally negative group mind set. Additionally interpersonal circumstances could also push employees away.

Ultimately, while the details might vary, employees usually leave for one of two reasons: either they are actively dissatisfied, or they are complacent and believe that better opportunities lie elsewhere.

How, then, can manufacturers overcome these challenges and develop a workforce strategy that attracts top talent and retains middle-skill employees for longer?

Drivers of Attraction

Retention strategies should be designed to foster a working culture that makes your company an attractive prospect. The following suggested approaches will signal positive intent on the part of your company to be an employer of choice:

1. Prioritise safety

Manufacturing is an industry where physical risks are prevalent all of the time, making jobs strenuous and labour-intensive.

In practice, maintaining a safe work environment means managing many moving parts that require constant upkeep. Here are a few strategies to ensure that your work environment upholds safety standards and maintains its staff complement:

Automate safety procedures – Where possible, convert manual upkeep of safety standards to automated processes. This will minimise the amount of time and resources your employees need to devote to keeping the workplace safe.

Utilise digital solutions to promote proper safety training and track employees who might need training or refresher courses. As an additional benefit, digitally accessible solutions will allow managers and employees to track safety checklists in a centralised location.

Automation and digital solutions can be powerful aids in keeping safety standards high and employees compliant. It also signals the importance that a company attaches to employee safety, an important consideration for employees weighing new employment.

Make it easy to report problems – Accidents happen. Machines break and processes do not always unfold as expected. The manufacturing industry deals with unexpected safety concerns continuously. Focus on making sure you and your team are notified as soon as any issues arise. If you are not aware of an existing problem, you cannot fix it.

If you cannot confidently answer yes to the following questions, you will need to review your safety problem reporting methods:

  • Do your employees have easy access to managers and supervisors?
  • Is there a centralised location where safety concerns are documented and tracked?
  • Are requests addressed before they become an emergency?

Analyse where shortcomings may exist and put mechanisms and processes in place to make safety problem reporting easy.

Improve your response times – This goes hand in hand with the previous point. If employees have no way to report or log problems easily, the recommendation to respond quickly is irrelevant.

Software that enables centralised workflow tracking can identify when issues arise and hold people accountable for resolving problems on time.

Once you meet these baseline safety standards, you can start thinking more holistically — meaning in addition to the physical standards, you can improve the quality of relationships, your company culture, and more.

2. Regularly recognise top-performing employees

Acknowledge your employees for their hard work and dedication through an employee-recognition programme that rewards team members with bonuses, or additional time off, for their efforts.

More importantly, make this a regular practice that empowers team members to acknowledge each other’s’ success, thereby building:

  • Camaraderie among peers
  • A feeling of recognition and appreciation for hard work
  • Insight into individual strengths

Recognising progress or achievement, no matter how small, is often one of the surest ways to encourage commitment and motivation amongst employees.

Make recognition accessible – Mobile employee-engagement apps mean that anyone with a phone can participate in giving and receiving recognition.

Inclusive employee-recognition programmes allow peers who do not work alongside one another to gain insight into what their colleagues in other departments are doing.

They also send the message that employees in all roles and at all levels are valued and deserving of recognition. Most importantly, inclusive employee recognition improves the quality of relationships between peers.

The smart use of management tools can unlock the potential that recognition and rewards have in keeping staff engaged and committed to your company’s success.

3. Invest in onboarding and sustained training programmes

Research reveals that companies lose as many as 25% of all new employees within the first year. In instances where companies invest in great onboarding experiences, 69% of employees are more likely to stay with the company for 3 years or longer.

The benefits of comprehensive onboarding and continual training are therefore self-evident. If you invest in your employees’ growth and development from the moment they join your organisation, they are more likely to remain with the company.

Training and upskilling employees is also intrinsic to arming them with the knowledge and resources they need to excel in a competitive marketplace. This can be challenging for a multinational company, especially if employees are accustomed to in-person training and find themselves assigned to a region where this form of training is no longer available. Technology offers a potential answer to this issue. Not only does it enable regular employee training to continue but facilitates its deployment in an engaging way that improves the employee  experience.

  • Ensure your tech-friendly training includes the following:
  • Customised learning experiences that are based on each employee’s current responsibilities and future goals.
  • Artificial intelligence that is leveraged to personalise your learner management systems on a deeper level.

Integrated experiential learning that empowers employees to learn new skills on the job.

No matter what approach you decide to take it is vitally important to ensure that the training you provide new hires and established employees makes sense for their role and ultimately contributes to their workplace development.

Key Takeaways

The above approaches are primers that can start what is potentially an intense interrogation of current practices aimed at staff retention. Your on-the-floor manufacturing employees are the backbone of your company’s production activities. By improving their employee experience and lengthening their tenure, you strengthen your entire organisation, and boost employee productivity.

A proactive approach to each employee’s daily experience and long-term professional development, along with the appropriate tools to execute your strategy for retaining staff, is essential to any pre-emptive tactics aimed at tackling high staff turnover.

If you are ready to start engaging your manufacturing workforce talk to an expert today.