Over the past couple of months, as part of our consulting work, my team at Ady Advantage and I have talked to dozens of manufacturers across the country.  Most of these conversations took place on-site at their facilities.  Looking back, it is apparent that talent, or lack thereof, is a concern for many of them.  Following are some of the trends and approaches to this wide-ranging problem that we noticed:

  1. Drill down to the root cause(s).  Even if your talent issue has a lot of the same characteristics as an issue faced by another manufacturer in another region or state, the root cause(s) may be different.  Are people not accepting jobs because they can drive ten miles further (with lower gas prices) and make more money?  Are they just showing up long enough to get unemployment?  Or, maybe shortly after they start they realize the work is too hard, and they don’t feel capable of doing it.  You can see from these examples that the solution to each root issue would be different.
  2. Talk to other manufacturers in your area.  As much as you compete with them for talent, this issue is a systemic one and should be addressed as a team than by multiple isolated efforts.  Rowing together will get you further, faster.  In many communities, several manufacturers have gotten together and, with the clarity of purpose that only manufacturers can demonstrate, served as the rallying point for real action.
  3. Involve your local economic development team.  They have shared goals (retain and grow jobs and investment) and access to resources that you may not be aware of.  Economic developers can do their best work when their employers are engaged and working together.
  4. Bite off one issue at a time.  It can be overwhelming to try and tackle every workforce issue at once.  Start with one of the easier ones, get a success under your belt, and then work on the next one.
  5. Be prepared to measure the ROI, but it’s not directly comparable to buying a new piece of equipment.  Manufacturers are renowned for their ROI metrics, but this can make it hard to invest time and energy (and sometimes money) in “softer” things such as retention programs, soft skills training, Manufacturing Day activities with the local high schools, and so forth.  This is when it takes vision from the top to identify challenges (where you’re at), opportunities (where you want to go), and strategies (how you’re going to get there).

If you’re facing talent challenges, we’ve got your back. Ady Advantage offers services to manufacturers ranging from research and competitive strategy to branding and marketing. Contact Janet Ady for more information at 608.663.9218.

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