When the manufacturing workforce has the upper hand
This past August in suburban Chicago, John Manzella, of the Manzella Report, spoke on “Labor, International Trade, and What’s Ahead” at the annual NFPA International Economic Outlook Conference. One of the issues he touched on was the current labor shortage. He explained that we have job openings in this country like we really haven’t seen before, including roughly 826,000 jobs in manufacturing that need to be filled. Manzella also quoted a Deloitte study that said there will be a 2.4 million manufacturing job shortage here between 2018 and 2028, and that will cost companies $2.5 trillion in lost revenues.
The question becomes, what can manufacturing employers do to keep the best and the brightest working for them?
Manzella stressed that we’ve got to invest more in education, training, and engagement. Even employee recognition events and group activities are important — anything you can use to build rapport.
“Once you attract those workers, the key is to keep them, and we’re finding it’s more and more difficult to do that; we’ve got to create strategies that breed happier, healthier, better educated employees that are more productive, and feel valued; they’re more likely to refer friends as a result because friends lead to referral programs. Offering more generous daycare options, which has been a strategy used in Europe for years (although it’s being subsidized to a much greater extent) has worked. You’ll see that young women’s participation in Europe in the workforce is much, much higher than the U.S. In fact, I spoke with a company that actually purchased a daycare center, and I was told the results were just fantastic in terms of getting more younger people at the firm.”
“For the first time in my life, workers now are really in the driver’s seat as opposed to the HR department,” he said. “Raising pay is always a great option, but for many companies it’s just impossible. I recently spoke to a group that provided cleaning staff to hotels. You may not necessarily be able to raise the wages too much higher, but they have different incentives, so it’s not by the hour, but it’s by how many rooms you cleaned that day — the metric side is slightly different, and very often beneficial to both sides. We’ve got to come up with a whole new set of strategies to appeal to this audience.”
“I know some companies have jets in the organization, and very attractive break areas, outdoor seating, walking trails, games, catered lunches,” Manzella explained. “Sometimes they even gave employees a happy hour, which is a little risqué with liquor, but whatever you can do to keep your workers there longer is important.”
Paul J. Heney
VP, Editorial Director
On Twitter @wtwh_paulheney
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