Retaining talented light industrial workers during a labor shortage can be challenging. Even when a company offers its best possible hourly wage,  a neighboring facility is often paying more.

A strong retention program can make the difference between keeping and losing a talented employee. Here are some strategies to help reduce turnover:

Develop an Effective Onboarding Program: Ensuring new workers have a positive first impression of a company’s culture, people and processes is the first step to developing a loyal workforce. When onboarding, companies should be very thorough—not only showing new employees around the facility, but providing them with details about performance expectations and introducing them to other employees.  

Provide Ongoing, Meaningful Training: The importance of an ongoing training program that teaches employees the skills needed to succeed in a manufacturing environment cannot be overstated. A recent national survey commissioned by the Alliance for American Manufacturing found that 78% of respondents felt it is very important to “offer more job training and education programs for workers.”

Establish a Career Path: For both full- and part-time employees, it is important to establish a career path starting on day one. This should include discussions about training options, educational opportunities such as tuition reimbursement and long-term advancement goals. This is even more important with Millennials, who often prioritize career growth more than their predecessors. (According to a report by Payscale, 72% of Millennials say they value opportunities for career advancement, compared with 52% for Boomers and 64% for Gen-Xers.

Recognize and Reward Good Employees: Companies that recognize and reward employees help create emotional ties that aid in retaining good workers. Recognition can range from a a simple “Thank you” acknowledging  workers’ efforts in real time, to financial incentives and bonuses that reward exceptional work such as beating production goals or spotting safety defects.

Engage with Employees: Technology such as direct deposit and online scheduling has decreased opportunities for managers to personally connect with employees. As a result, some companies are dedicating a specific employee to directly engage with all workers, both permanent and temporary. This person can welcome new employees and introduce them to the team; gather ongoing feedback; resolve employee conflicts; and coordinate special events such as luncheons, staff parties and after-work activities. When everyone feels like a part of a team, they are more likely to be successful and want to remain in their jobs. 

Ensure Worker Safety: OSHA regulations state that employers have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace, one that is free from hazards, complies with standards and offers employee safety training. This is true for all workers, including part-time and temporary employees. A safe work environment can also help with retention by letting employees know that the company cares.

Create a Community Service Initiative: A survey by the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship found that a company’s community involvement improvement its reputation and its ability to  attract and retain employees. Employees who participate in community service activities tend to be more engaged and loyal. Additionally, volunteering can give employees the opportunity to develop new skills and work on leadership qualities.