Retaining Manufacturing Workers Means Investing In Them

Training and development opportunities keep young workers—those under 25—in the manufacturing industry with their current employers, according to new research. The Manufacturing Institute’s (MI) Center for Manufacturing Research partnered with the American Psychological Association to examine best practices for worker retention among manufacturers, and found that 69 percent of young employees stay with their current employer because of training and development, and 65 percent do so for career opportunities.

“With 814,000 jobs open in manufacturing, there has been a great deal of attention on recruitment, but part of the equation is also retention,” says MI Executive Director Carolyn Lee. “We partnered with the APA to provide manufacturers a deeper dive into the forces affecting retention—what works, what motivates employees and where employers likely can improve. And as the study shows, not all employees are motivated by the same factors. It’s important to understand key differences among employee groups so that we can continue to foster the most engaging, productive and inclusive workplaces possible.”

The study found that eight in 10 workers said they stay with their employer because they enjoy the work. And employees who feel valued were more than four times as likely to report high levels of work engagement (59 percent vs. 13 percent) and less likely to say they feel stressed out on a typical workday (16 percent vs. 66 percent) or that they plan to leave the company within the next year (two percent vs. 12 percent).

More than nine in 10 senior leaders surveyed are satisfied with training and development, compared to two-thirds of frontline workers. MI notes that its data shows that while competitive pay and benefits are important, designing work in a way that increases positive experiences on the job can be an effective approach to improving retention. The most sophisticated retention efforts employed by manufacturing leaders include ensuring every individual understands how their efforts are linked to overall company success and equipping frontline managers to support workers.

MI recommends some common areas to address to improve retention, as cited by manufacturing leaders. These include employee recognition programs, internal communication, clear career paths and better management training, especially “soft skills.”

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