Call it a labor shortage. Call it a skills gap. Call it the thing that keeps you up at night. If you work on the HR or management side of manufacturing, chances are, unfilled jobs on your production floor are an anxiety-inducing reality. While every industry is feeling the labor shortage, yours is among the hardest hit.
It’s projected that 4.6 million manufacturing jobs will open up in the next decade—and that, if we stay on our current track, 2.4 million of them will remain unfilled, according to a study by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute.
Beyond the nation’s historically low unemployment rate, there are industry-specific factors aggravating this. For one thing, Baby Boomers, the mainstay of the manufacturing workforce, are retiring in droves. According to one SHRM report, nearly 27% of the industry’s workers will retire over the next decade.
For another, while Americans support the manufacturing industry in theory, a declining number of young workers are choosing it as a career. Despite today’s bright outlook, too many headlines have led the public to associate the industry with layoffs and jobs shipped overseas. Until quite recently, trade schools and vocational program have been in decline.
How bad is the recruiting outlook? Fewer than five in 10 Americans surveyed by Deloitte believe that manufacturing work is interesting, rewarding, stable, clean, and safe. Only three in 10 parents will encourage their kids to choose it as a career. The manufacturing industry has an image problem that’s translated to a recruiting problem.
How Innovative Manufacturers Are Recruiting
Some manufacturers are taking bold steps to bolster recruiting and improve retention. They’re rethinking their branding—not necessarily for buyers, but for workers, developing cutting-edge websites and vibrant social media presences. Those embracing new technologies are touting them, not to mention the new, techier job descriptions that come with them.
Taking a page from the tech industry, some manufacturing employers are enticing workers with free meals, onsite gyms, and similar lifestyle perks. Others are enhancing their factory environments to be more ergonomic and comfortable. BMW, for example, has retrofitted some of its plants with sit-stand chairs and soft flooring that’s kinder to workers’ joints.
In an appeal to gig-minded workers—and to improve retention of the retirement-bound—some manufacturers are taking a more flexible approach to traditional shifts and scheduling, offering job sharing and part-time positions, while giving employees the freedom to swap and bid on open shifts.
And in order to draw new graduates, some manufacturers are partnering very effectively with schools and community colleges to sponsor training programs and apprenticeships, providing students with valuable skills as well as a path to employment.
But amidst all this positive recruiting and retention-focused activity, there’s one obvious step that many manufacturers have not yet taken: ensuring their HR software is up to the challenge of supporting their new initiatives.
If Your HR Software Isn’t Helping, It’s Hurting
In the last few years, we’ve seen employers across many industries consciously upgrade their HCM software to meet the changing demands of their business. But we haven’t yet seen this urgency across the manufacturing sector, even though it could optimize recruiting and training efforts, while creating positive employee engagement.
Right now, manufacturers worried about the labor shortage should be asking themselves if their HCM system…
- Includes a robust recruiting/applicant tracking program that allows them to post to all the popular job boards simultaneously, keeping a steady flow of applicants coming in.
- Features a mobile-optimized application process, since a growing number of jobseekers apply via smartphone.
- Includes a flexible scheduling program that enables managers to handle more complex scheduling, while allowing workers to swap shifts directly and bid for open shifts.
- Facilitates career training through a self-service learning portal that lets employers upload educational media in every format and link to external webinars and online courses.
- Supports employee engagement initiatives, giving workers direct access to a self-service portal where they can check paystubs, request PTO, review their benefits, and easily communicate with managers and HR.
Obviously, not all HCM software is suited to the manufacturing industry. Not all pay engines can accommodate the intricacies of split shifts, multiple pay rates, and union regulations. Not all come with time clocks that will withstand rough handling in a plant environment. And not all HR systems actively instill safe work practices and offer protections against Workers’ Comp claims. Before manufacturers engage in a search for the right HCM system, it’s important to identify their needs and priorities.
EPAY's Making a Difference
For the record, EPAY’s HCM system does all of these things. Our flexible payroll engine was designed to handle the complexities of an hourly, often union-based, workforce. Our equally-adaptable scheduling program will accommodate non-traditional work schedules. And our low-maintenance time clocks are built for rough environments (beyond factories, you’ll find them in airports and construction trailers, and even on oil rigs).
Perhaps most importantly, EPAY’s advanced workforce management tools help trim the fat from manufacturers’ labor costs. Once they implement our HCM system, employers typically see costs drop by up to 5% or more. And if you’re initiating new programs designed to promote recruitment and retention, that’s money you can put to much better use.
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