Addressing workforce challenges, a top concern for manufacturers

Manufacturers are optimistic about their industry and the U.S. economy, but concerned about the ongoing struggle to find qualified workers, according to the 2017 Manufacturing Report from professional services firm Sikich LLP.


An efficient workforce is the foundation of every economy. No economy can succeed without a high-quality workforce, particularly in an age of globalization and technology advancement. The skill and knowledge a workforce fuels drives the engine of that individual organization, as well.

The use of advanced technology across manufacturing operations requires a workforce with a higher level of training and skills, but there are often gaps in the development initiatives needed to help a workforce acquire the needed skills. Some of the workforce challenges manufacturers are facing today include are as follows: 

  • A shrinking workforce
  • Training for innovation to the aging workforce
  • A shortage of top recruiters
  • An involvement, or engagement, gap
  • A retention problem
  • Confronting a negative public image
  • Matching training providers to business needs
  • Training of advanced technologies

In order to remain competitive, employers have recognized that it’s a smart step to address the challenge. The top five solutions to address the workforce challenges are as follows:

Training and development: Says Joy Duce, partner-in-charge of Sikich’s HR Consulting Services, “Manufacturers must invest on training skill and development to their workforce within [an] organization to maintain the competitive edge. They should collaborate with colleges, universities and professional associations to train and recruit talent”. English-language skill is becoming a prominent challenge for the industry. Employers should also conduct English training programs for their workers to understand the language of the machines they will use on the job.

Training for technology advancement: As technology continues to grow, timely training on technology use, including cyber security trainingis necessary to ensure company-wide vigilance. Manufacturers need to take preventive steps to secure valuable intellectual property and protect their investments in new high-tech manufacturing equipment, which can be otherwise exploited.

Training the supply chain: Manufacturers need to give integrated training programs to the workers throughout the supply chain. The standard training program must ensure it will train the entire workforce to meet business needs.

Workforce-friendly policies: Organizations must update their policies which are employee friendly to reflect an understanding of the organization towards their workforce’s families. Employee health and wellness should be a top concern. There is a direct relation between productivity and a decrease in absenteeism when employees are feeling their best. Organizations should ensure their available resources are not drained and exploited. 

  • Professional and pipeline recruiting: Manufacturers should hire professional recruiters to create a pipeline of workforce in advance. They should ensure that an ongoing supply of new and incumbent workers are recruited and prepared to meet the needs of manufacturers. Many medium and small sized manufacturers do not have HR departments or someone with enough experience organizing training programs for their workers.

The motivation to work and remain positive is another challenge which many manufacturers are facing. They should commence motivational workshops or seminars to detoxify their workforce and must try to create a positive public image of their organization. 

What are the challenges you are facing in your organisation?

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