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"What It Took to Get Us to Stay": Entry Level Manufacturing Workers Speak Up

'What It Took to Get Us to Stay': Entry Level Manufacturing Workers Speak Up

Nov. 2, 2022
The top reasons for staying with a company include pay, training and schedules.

Pouring over data, analyzing trends and evaluating the efficacy of policies are often how companies study their retention efforts. While those methods offer insights, the best resource for finding out why employees stay at their jobs is to ask them.

IW did that and spoke with three entry-level workers in different industries. Here are their responses as to what they like about their jobs and why they have stayed.

Chris – mechanical technician, steel manufacturer

The reason I have stuck around here is that when I was hired, I wasn't the highest-rated mechanic, and they were willing to train me by sending me to workshops and school so I can improve at my job. I especially like that I have a clear career path and know that I have a way to grow with the company and always keep moving forward.

The learning process is very much a personal choice here. The management doesn't sit you down and have those conversations with you, after the initial probation period. It's pretty much up to you to ask managers for the information that lets you acquire new skills. After completing certain courses, you go back to managers so they can evaluate your work and see if you're ready to go to the next level.

It’s not just me, I see this with my fellow workers. Mechanics work their way up through the ranks and then from there, they have the option of going to management if they desire or they can go somewhere else in the company and learn something new.

As far as other things I like about this job is that I can work as much as I want. There is no limit on overtime. The pay is good and there are obvious ways for me to increase it if I want more.

In terms of where I think the company goes the extra mile, to me, it’s the way they look at safety and how they treat the people. At our facility, a lot of dangerous things are involved in the processes and we constantly have safety training. Still, things happened and people do inevitably get hurt --I was recently burned pretty badly a few months ago. The company reacted and has pretty much rebuilt the entire system which was the cause of my injury. They added dozens of extra fail-safes to the system to make sure what happened to me doesn't happen to somebody else. And while I was out of work and in the hospital, they made sure I was taken care of. I didn't have to worry about my livelihood or anything while I was healing.

Morayo– mechanical technician, producer of industrial/specialty gases

At my current company, I enjoy knowing that there is room for growth. I have been in the industry for 20 years and still have room to grow, To me that is important. I like the fact that there is a specific training path, so there are a lot of opportunities to branch out. 

It's important for a company to invest in their people. It makes you want to stick around when you know that the company is investing in you.

One thing I especially like about this company is that I feel it has appropriate leadership in that the managers have experience in the jobs they are supervising. It gives them perspective and they understand what it takes to do the job.

I also find myself in a mentoring role, as I have a lot of experience and so I’m trying to facilitate their growth.

Growth is important to me, in general, as I’m a person who wants to put down roots and become stronger than I was before. I plan to stay on the path, work hard and keep at it.

Stephen – medical calibration technician, medical device manufacturer

I have been a calibration tech for almost two years in this job. I have found quality in both the work we do and the management. 

Another thing that’s important to me, as I’m supporting my family, is the pay level. I feel at this job I am paid what I’m worth. I don’t have to stress about supporting my family.

Another important issue is the schedule, again due to my family. I can work overtime when I want to so I can still keep a good work/life balance.

I was given enough training to where I feel comfortable doing my job and that is something I really appreciate.

As far as my relationship with my colleagues, I feel I can speak directly to people in my department and it’s not a formal relationship between an employee and manager. It’s more relaxed.  Every morning I talk with my managers, and we talk about what needs to be done, but not always in a serious tone --at least for me, it's somewhat of a family vibe.

A point I want to make to manufacturing companies is that when talking about how to keep and train talent, to me it really boiled down to pay. If there is a company that’s not willing to pay their employees what they're worth, there are ten other companies waiting in line that are willing to do that.

Although manufacturing companies have talked about schedules and other benefits, which are important, at end of the day, you need to pay people enough so that can raise their families and have a good life.  


Chris, Morayo and Stephen all found their current positions through the help of  Daniel Jacob, a manufacturing industry veteran, U.S. Navy industrial electrician, and now a  recruiting leader for Orion Talent.  “Looking at the main concerns all of them mentioned such as pay, scheduling and training, I would say that is what I have found to be true with a lot of people that I talk to. Looking at pay first, there is an issue of equity within companies when it comes to seasoned workers and their pay scale and then the higher pay scale of new workers. In the manufacturing world, this is playing out across many companies.”

Jacob says the advice he gives plant managers is that in order to keep up with increasing payments, companies have to organically grow their workforce.” That means not just looking for someone who has 80% technical acumen but finding someone that has the 50 or 60% solution right now and understands how to use tools to acquire the knowledge they will need. Companies should use training programs, as well as mentorship to grow this talent.”

When it comes to the issue of scheduling Jacob says companies have to change their attitude. “Managers need to shift from the idea that every new hire will go to the night shift. That has to stop. They have to be able to offer day-shift positions to the younger generation. They have families. The older workers don’t have families anymore. Day shift is prime time, and they won’t work as they used to for 10 years just to get a day shift.”

In addition to these things, Jacob counsels companies on how to convey to candidates the “sizzle” behind their organizations. “What makes your company attractive, I ask them. Why would someone want to work here? It’s those factors that end up translating into higher retention.”

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