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3 key people challenges in the manufacturing industry – and how to fix them

The manufacturing industry is known for its complex workforce challenges, which continue to evolve with technological advancements. Today, HR professionals in the manufacturing industry are facing a plethora of major challenges, some of which require timely solutions.

In this post, we discuss the key challenges confronting the manufacturing industry while providing insights into possible solutions. By understanding and mastering these issues, manufacturing organisations can better prepare themselves for success in the future.

1. Attracting and retaining talent

One of the significant challenges that HR professionals face in the manufacturing industry is attracting and retaining talent. It is no longer viewed as a vibrant and attractive industry and has lost considerable talent to more modern and diverse industries.

For example, manufacturing has struggled with the perception that it’s a dirty and unskilled job, is often perpetuated in pop culture through film and TV. But this perception couldn't be further from the truth. Manufacturing has in fact become a more automated, modern, and clean workplace requiring skilled professionals to develop new processes, improve operational efficiency using predictive analytics, and maintain complex equipment and precision instruments.

Yet, whilst recruiting and retaining the right people can still remain a challenge in manufacturing organisations, with the right strategies in place, it doesn’t have to be.

  • Develop an attractive recruitment process. It’s important to have an efficient and effective recruitment process that is tailored to the needs of your organisation. In addition, make sure there are opportunities for people to apply in-person, as well as online.
  • Leverage social media to attract potential candidates. Social media can be a powerful tool for recruiting and retaining the best talent. Utilise platforms such as LinkedIn to build relationships with potential candidates and promote job openings.
  • Offer competitive compensation packages. Offering competitive pay is essential in order to attract and retain qualified individuals. Consider offering incentive-based compensation plans or bonuses to create an attractive package that will entice employees to stay with your organisation.
  • Create a positive work environment. Implementing initiatives that will increase employee engagement and satisfaction can go a long way in creating a successful workforce. Consider introducing activities such as team building exercises or offering flexible work hours to foster camaraderie and boost morale.

2. Bridging the skills gap

Keeping up with the ever-changing demands of the manufacturing industry can be difficult, which is why it’s important for HR professionals to stay on top of these issues and identify ways to bridge any potential skills gaps.

To keep high potential and postgraduate talent in the industry, it’s crucial to communicate what today's manufacturing can offer employees who want a long-term career. Manufacturing 4.0 has several rewarding career paths that require skilled professionals across several disciplines.

Many firms however are not maximising the opportunity to engage with their existing employees and identify talent that has the potential to develop the skills necessary for Manufacturing 4.0.

One way to do this is by conducting regular employee surveys, which can provide insight into the strengths and weaknesses of your workforce. Here are a few things to bear in mind:

  • Keep it simple. The survey should be easy to understand and only ask questions that are relevant to the topics at hand.
  • Make it anonymous. Employees should feel comfortable answering honestly, so make sure they can do so without fear of reprisal or judgment.
  • Ask for feedback. Ask open-ended questions that allow employees to provide their own unique insights and perspectives on certain issues.
  • Analyse results. After the survey is completed, analyse the results carefully to look for any trends or patterns that might be useful in mitigating potential skills gaps.

3. Employee health and safety

The health and safety of employees should be a top priority for all manufacturers. However, the manufacturing industry presents inherent safety risks due to employees’ involvement in working with machines, heavy equipment, and physical operations. HR professionals are, therefore, responsible for creating safer workplaces and developing safety protocols and policies that ensure employees’ wellbeing.

  • Provide adequate safety training. Employees should be trained on proper safety procedures and given refresher courses on a regular basis.
  • Implement safety equipment. Make sure all workers are wearing the necessary protective gear and that equipment is regularly checked for any potential hazards.
  • Monitor air quality levels. Install air-quality monitors in your facility to ensure hazardous materials are not being released into the atmosphere.
  • Encourage employees to practice good hygiene. Establish a policy that encourages employees to wash their hands regularly and wear protective clothing when handling hazardous materials.

Why should you focus on employee engagement?

Employee engagement is a deep rational and emotional connection to your organisation and the work you do. It’s the outcome of a great employee experience, and starts during the recruitment process – before you even turn up for your first day.

Engagement is important because it unlocks the potential of each individual, their motivation, and maximises their discretionary effort. If they’re engaged enough to become advocates for your organisation, engagement can live on long after employees leave – which has a tangible impact on commercial outcomes for your business.

You can read more about how to reach and engage employees in the manufacturing industry in our article here, and how to improve employee engagement here. Or, download our eBook, Making Manufacturing an Employee Destination Industry, to learn why improving employee engagement can make manufacturing a destination for talent who wants to join the industry and, most importantly, stay.


WorkBuzz helps you can gather real-time feedback from your people through regular employee listening, via our fast, simple and flexible employee engagement platform. We also offer expert consultancy through our People Science team, so you can action the feedback in a way that drives positive change across your organisation.

Our team comes with a wealth of experience supporting manufacturing organisations of all sizes, including Hovis, ISS, Premier Foods, and more.

If you’re looking for more advice on how to support your manufacturing organisation during these challenging times, don’t hesitate to book a demo today. We can help you devise and implement strategies that will ensure the continued success of your business in the years to come.

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