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How to Bridge the Manufacturing Skills Gap

Skilled manufacturing worker on an assembly line

The world of manufacturing has grown more automated than ever before.

While this automation has certainly created never-before-seen capabilities, it’s a double-edged sword: there’s now an incredible reliance on skilled workers. And a loss of engineers, researchers, scientists and skilled production workers can spell disaster for manufacturers.

This disparity in employment, referred to as the skills gap, means that manufacturers are in a tough place. Their talent’s niche expertise has helped companies thrive, but, for a number of reasons, many of them have one foot out the door.

According to a report from The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte, over the next decade, nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs likely need to be filled, and 2 million of those face going unfilled. That’s an incredible shift with far-reaching ramifications.

There simply aren’t enough people to take the reins from retiring employees, and critical employees are constantly being courted by the competition.

What can employers do to bridge the skills gap, keep their key people on their team and recruit up-and-coming talent?


What’s Behind the Skills Gap

According to The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte study, there are a handful of major contributing factors to the manufacturing skills gap:

  • Baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) are retiring rapidly
  • Industry-wide economic expansion
  • Shortage of skilled workforce
  • Loss of embedded knowledge from retiring workers
  • A negative image of the manufacturing industry among younger generations
  • Lack of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills among workers
  • And more

With such a wide array of reasons employees may leave, employers can’t rely on one method of engagement to retain their people. It’s more important than ever for employers to alter their employee retention programs to take a multi-faceted approach.

As a Deloitte University Press study finds, focusing solely on retaining those employees may be ineffective.

Companies should shift away from strategies that merely keep people in place and, instead, move toward ones that attract and engage people through development- and growth-centered measures.


Cost Savings

It’s a proven fact: employee engagement programs keep your people motivated. And, simultaneously, they also have the secondary benefit of attracting people to your company.

For manufacturers looking to overcome the skills gap, that presents a big opportunity.

If your employees like where they work, they are more likely to recommend others to work there. When quality applicants find you, as compared to the other way around, you spend less time, effort and money on recruitment. Keeping employees in place also provides huge bottom-line savings.


Embracing Culture

To optimize your position, beat the manufacturing skills gap and attract the younger demographic your company needs, company culture is imperative. And the statistics don’t lie.

For a vibrant culture, companies must account for the varied perspectives and interests that a multigenerational workforce brings. A holistic wellbeing solution will drive measurable impact throughout your company and help overcome the talent gap. An effective engagement solution should be able to target a number of key areas that influence the health and wellbeing of your employees, all while capturing the attention of your people.

To best motivate and engage with their employees—and keep retention levels high—employers must focus on a holistic solution that rewards top performance.


Finding the Right Solution

So, what is a holistic solution? And how does it drive measurable impact throughout a company?

A holistic solution is one that focuses the whole employee, both at work and away from work. The more employee programs a manufacturer offers, and the more varied they are, the higher the perceived rate of engagement, satisfaction and motivation.

To get the best results, employers should offer a solution that focuses on five key areas:

  • Performance. Incentivize sales goals, productivity goals and whatever else your teams do on the job to perform.
  • Career. If performance looks at the immediate, career rewards performance in the long term: tenure awards, training, safety courses or anything else that celebrates deep-rooted efficacy.
  • Wellness. It’s the way your employees create a secure and well-balanced life—physical, financial, spiritual, and emotional balance.
  • Social. It’s great to get noticed by your manager for your hard work, but being recognized by your peers is key, too. Think peer-to-peer awards, spot nomination, above-and-beyond recognition and more.
  • Community. Your company is a part of your community. Appreciate your employees for the ways they improve it—employee referral, volunteerism, eco groups and more.

Consider a consolidated technology platform that addresses these areas of focus in a strategic way, streamlines administrative expenses, improves financial results to get the most out of your people—and beats the talent gap.

Parts of this article originally appeared in Industry Today.

Maggie Wenthe's picture

Maggie Wenthe

Maggie has spent over 15 years in incentives, marketing and merchandising. She is an architect of rules structure and strategic design when it comes to incentives. She knows exactly how to cultivate an engaged workplace. She also knows how to cultivate more than 10 acres of fruit, veggies, popcorn and pumpkins.

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