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Skilled Worker Shortage
What Manufacturing Workers Want, Part 4

What Manufacturing Workers Want, Part 4

Five fundamental tactics for recruiting and retaining a productive engaged manufacturing workforce.

OK, let’s review what was covered so far in our series of articles on the ResourceMFG Manufacturing Employee Opinion Survey.


• Pay is most important to manufacturing workers
• Then Job Security
• Then Benefits
• Next to layoffs, hourly workers are most likely to leave a job for more money.  
• They would move to a less desirable shift for as little as $1.00/hr.   
• Nearly 40% do not have health insurance.   
• Almost one-third do not think missing work – even one day – is acceptable.   
• First shift is their preference.  
• So are 8-hour shifts.   
• (They really don’t like 12-hour ones.)     
• All else being equal, the vast majority of workers (87.5% of them) prefer time off over the equivalent in pay.

Of course these are generalizations. But this list represents some of ResourceMFG’s main findings in its Manufacturing Employee Opinion Survey, a project that includes input from nearly 2,500 hourly manufacturing workers.

Manufacturing companies already gain so much value when the ‘front lines’ are given a voice, from lean initiatives to safety programs to continuous improvement efforts, and so on. It only makes sense for these same companies to consider hourly worker input on topics of direct importance to them.

So in that spirit, and with the Survey results clearly in mind, a few recommendations:

  1. Pay:

    Get the starting pay right. Competitive, fair. Take the time to research your market for companies recruiting for the same skills or experience you seek. Be in the top pay rate quartile. It will return dividends in recruiting (lower time to fill), in the quality of applicants, and in retention, among other important factors.

    And make sure you stay competitive over time. Pay rates go up in most markets. Don’t let your workforce fall behind prevailing local wages, or you may wake up to find ‘the market’ took them back (remember the #1 reason people leave?).

  2. Job Security:

    There are certainly no guarantees of this in the manufacturing world, but getting your  hourly people 40+ hours per week, communicating about upcoming projects or workloads, and identifying opportunities for them to advance or learn new skills, will go a long way toward building a sense of stability and security that is so important to the workforce.

  3. Attendance:

    Recognize that most workers do not think missing a lot of work is OK. Consistently and visibility reward reliability and attendance. Focus on that ‘silent majority’ who are getting the job done for you.

  4. Shift Work:

    Avoid non-traditional (read 12-hour or rotating or weekend) shifts whenever possible. The labor market is tight enough without trying to recruit people for a shift schedule that only about 15% prefer.

  5. Paid-Time-Off:

    Don’t forget PTO as part of incentive plans, contest prizes, or similar efforts. It is not always ‘all about the money.’ Remember: When given an even choice, most employees choose more PTO over more money.

As we all know, there are no magic bullets when it comes to recruiting and retaining a productive engaged manufacturing workforce. But there is some basic ‘blocking and tackling’ that manufacturing managers should take into account.

And often the best plan is built around asking the right questions, and listening to the answers.

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