Work satisfaction and job security are the main factors impacting manufacturing employee retention rates according to a new study.

The Manufacturing Institute’s Center for Manufacturing Research and the American Psychological Association study examined best practices for retention among manufacturers and explore the motivating factors that affect worker retention.

The study relied on interviews with the leaders of 14 manufacturing companies and follow-up surveys of 578 employees from five of those participating companies.

Eighty-three percent of surveyed workers said work enjoyment was the main reason they remain with their current employer, while 79% cited stability or job security.

Other factors include an employer's family-oriented culture (69%) and the way the job fits into an employee's lifestyle outside of work (68%).

Highlights

  • Retention concerns: Manufacturing leaders noted specific concerns related to retaining high-potential workers, skilled labor, and employees in key technical and sales jobs.
  • Drivers of retention: Although fewer overall respondents (42%) identified training and career opportunities as reasons for staying, around two-thirds of those under 25 said these were motivating factors in their decision to remain with their current employer (69% and 65%, respectively).
  • Key retention practices: The most sophisticated retention efforts focus on actively involving employees, ensuring that every individual understands how their efforts are linked to overall company success, and equipping frontline managers to support workers. Successful approaches also included formal employee development plans and clear career paths, cross-training with opportunities for broad and challenging assignments, comprehensive employee recognition, a supportive organizational culture with close ties to the community, and competitive pay and benefits.
  • Employee views of workplace practices: More than seven in 10 workers are satisfied with their organization’s employee involvement (76%), training and development (72%), work-life balance (76%), and health and safety efforts (80%) and reported having sufficient autonomy (78%), as well as opportunities for career advancement (72%). Approximately two-thirds of workers said they are satisfied with their employer’s recognition (66%) and communication (63%) practices.
  • Employee experience: Approximately half of survey respondents (48%) reported high/very high work engagement, 43% reported an average level of engagement, and just 10% reported low/very low engagement.
  • Differences by job level: Senior leaders were more likely to report having sufficient opportunities for involvement in decision making (96%) and internal advancement (85%) and to say they are satisfied with the training and development opportunities available to them (94%), compared to frontline workers (67%, 70% and 66%, respectively). However, when frontline workers did report having adequate involvement, the differences related to advancement opportunities and training were reduced by approximately two-thirds.

Feeling Valued

Although most workers said they feel valued (69%) and treated fairly (79%), there are significant differences between those who have positive and negative experiences in these areas.

Nearly all respondents who feel valued by their employer said they are highly motivated (97%), satisfied with their job (97%), and would recommend their company to others as a good place to work (96%), compared to just 45%, 30%, and 25% of those who do not feel valued at work.

Respondents who said they are treated unfairly were more than four times as likely to report feeling stressed out on a typical workday (68% vs. 16%) and almost 10 times as likely to say they intend to look for a new job within the next year (19% vs. 2%) compared to workers who say they are treated fairly.