July 31, 2020

10 Workforce Development Tips for Manufacturers

By Greg Pasiadis, Manager, Assurance Services

10 Workforce Development Tips for Manufacturers Industrial Products

It is more than halfway through a year that no one anticipated—every business has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in one way or another. Perhaps your manufacturing business has experienced delays in production or materials. There may be members of your team you no longer see on a regular basis due to a scaled-back workforce. According to a recent survey of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), nearly 80% of manufacturers responding expect the pandemic to financially impact their businesses compared with roughly one-half of companies in other industries.

The pandemic further exacerbates the long-running skilled labor shortage. According to NAM, by the end of 2019, a record 522,000 jobs remained unfilled in the manufacturing sector. While it is critical to fill these jobs, the development of your existing workforce is vital to the current and future health of your business.

In fact, your bottom line can be directly correlated to the investment you make in the development and growth of your team. Although training can be expensive and distract from the day-to-day schedules of a production shift, the development of your workers might be considered your most important investment.

During these uncertain times, do not lose an opportunity to train, teach, and protect your skilled workers. Consider the following suggestions as you seek to develop your workforce:

  1. Invest in training that will develop your current pool of skilled workers. While conferences and tradeshows might be off-limits right now, encourage online learning and cross-training within your teams.
  2. Teach workforce efficiency practices, such as LEAN Sigma Six.
  3. Consider dropping an eight-hour shift to a six-hour shift for reduced workforces. This could relieve exhaustion of overworked laborers, and you can use the additional hours in the day for trainings in the classroom.
  4. Protect your workers; remember they have a life and family to return home to, so take measures to ensure your workplace remains open and safe.
  5. Provide comprehensive training on the use of the equipment, machinery, and software surrounding the workforce every day on the job. Even seasoned veterans may need a refresher on best practices or learn the latest industrial advances.
  6. Enable knowledge transfer and ensure succession plans are in place for all positions. This may be more challenging with specialized positions, but you must ensure that each position could be covered if that individual needed a leave of absence or leaves the company.
  7. Ask seasoned team members to mentor younger employees to learn new skills and develop best practices. In addition to instilling a culture of learning, it will promote employee engagement and a sense of community.
  8. Seek input and honest feedback from the workforce. The more your team feels they are making a difference in the company, the better chance you have of retaining them.
  9. Be transparent about potential job openings within the company and let employees know what it will take to achieve the next level of advancement.
  10. If an annual training is canceled due to the pandemic, find an alternative. If the pace of customer orders prevents the time and resources to develop your workers, calculate the risk if human capital is not growing with the business.

These unprecedented times might offer the best opportunity to invest in the development of your workforce. While there are many challenges in the manufacturing space, continue to develop your workforce to mitigate the potential for financial and operational setbacks. Remember, the investment in workforce development is a long-term strategy that will carry your business through challenging times.

Marcum’s Learning and Organization Development (L&OD) team is dedicated to helping professionals develop their skills. The team offers a range of solutions, from instructor-led development courses to self-paced e-learning plans that positively impact an organization’s effectiveness. For more information, contact Jennifer Comella at [email protected] or (330) 564-8587.

Marcum’s Manufacturing, Retail & Distribution advisors are dedicated to providing manufacturers with the most current information on their industry. If you have questions about this article or other manufacturing topics, contact your Marcum professional for assistance.