Manufacturing is at an inflection point, with the opportunity to attract a new generation of workers, according to a new report.
The Deloitte and Manufacturing Institute’s 2022 Competing for Talent: Recasting Perceptions of Manufacturing study provides key insights into educating the public about the benefits of manufacturing and how to attract and retain a post-pandemic workforce.
Similar to other studies, the report found those who work in manufacturing—or have friends or family working in the sector—have a better perception than those who do not.
For example, while only 34% of the general public believe entry-level manufacturing jobs tend to pay more than other industries, 66% of those who work in manufacturing believe that is true.
And 32% of the public believe manufacturing jobs are clean and safe, compared to 61% of those familiar with the sector.
“Those unfamiliar with manufacturing have minimal awareness of how modern technology, such as robotics and artificial intelligence, can make jobs safer and allow employees to do more productive work,” the report states.
To bridge the perception gap, manufacturers need to overcome the "mismatch between advertising methods."
The younger workforce is receptive to social media, television, and the news for information, so manufacturers need to leverage those platforms to reach their desired audience.
Manufacturers must also grapple with two key issues: global competition with retail, service, and technology brands, and competition with local businesses.
To combat these threats, “manufacturers may need to offer better wages and benefits and more flexible opportunities,” the report said.
However, manufacturing has positioned itself as an attractive option for workers.
The industry’s benefits and hourly wages performed better than the retail and service sectors, and the tenure of manufacturing employees is “among the highest when compared to other private-sector industries.”
Changing Workforce Needs
But wages and tenure may not be enough to attract a younger workforce.
The survey analysis shows a renewed focus from workers on well-being, flexibility in where/when to work, and a desire for more advanced technology in the workplace.
The report recommends a focus on “elevating the workforce experience as well as recasting perceptions of the industry.”
For one, manufacturers should promote career growth and learning through upskilling and development programs.
In addition, increased flexibility in work location and meeting employees’ needs—such as childcare benefits—are critical in attracting and retaining a loyal workforce.
“The focus on flexibility is likely to continue moving forward, as employees have come to expect it,” the report states.
Manufacturers should also put an emphasis on the company’s mission and purpose, and include a strong diversity, equity, and inclusion program.
Young workers “generally want to know that they are contributing positively to something bigger than themselves and that they are making a difference,” the report said.
And nearly half of the survey respondents agreed that “alignment and adaptability of work to the company mission, values, and purpose” are important.
The report concluded with a recommendation on how to meet the challenges facing the manufacturing industry: engage, involve, evolve.
“These categories are designed to amplify the positive aspects of manufacturing's current image to attract employees, while focusing on what should be considered to retain skilled and experienced employees,” the report noted.
Engaging entails identifying and pursuing channels and opportunities to connect and attract new sources of talent.
Tactics include sponsoring internships, partnering with local high schools, leveraging social media, and engaging more with your community.
Involving is the process through which manufacturers can better understand the needs of the current workforce.
This process includes programs that connect experienced workers with new employees and specialized roles for retiring employees to share their knowledge.
Evolving is the transformation of company policies to attract a new generation of workers.
Examples include career development programs, location flexibility, and an enhanced diversity, equity, and inclusion program.
“Companies can step up their initiatives,” the report said.
“Engage new employees, involving existing employees to retain them, and evolve the work and workplace in response to customer needs.”