How Workforce Management for Manufacturing Increases Employee Retention

SAPPORO JAPAN -APRIL 25 2016: Unidentified baker produce chocolate product inside Chocolate factory "Shiroi Koibito" buildiing by Ishiya a local chocolate company.
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Liz Strikwerda

Content strategist and corporate blogger (2000+ posts). Her work has been featured on G2's Learning Hub, Human Resources Today, Better Buys and over 500 business websites. She plays bluegrass mandolin and enjoys sailing her catamaran and hiking in the red rock wilderness of southern Utah. Connect with me on LinkedIn

Manufacturers need a full staff of qualified employees to be profitable. Yet the industry has long had a high rate of attrition. Employers in the manufacturing industry don’t have to accept high turnover as unavoidable. Proactive owners can improve their employee retention with workforce management software.

Some employers believe that workforce management software is purely an administrative tool. Sure, it tracks hours as well as your most reliable machine stamps out widgets. But it has much more potential. It also helps with critical, but less-quantifiable variables that affect profitability. These include employee loyalty, staff engagement, and job satisfaction.

Create a Retention Program

How do you reduce turnover in manufacturing? If you want to lower employee turnover at your company, you need to make a workable plan. And then execute it.

Your program should address wages, benefits, time and attendance policies, and employee scheduling. If you’ve never had an employee engagement or incentive program, you are already behind the curve. These don’t need to be elaborate to be effective.

Create an advancement track. If employees understand how to move into higher-paid positions, they will be more invested in your company. Even moving sideways can increase loyalty. Cross-training enables employees to perform many functions on the plant floor. This helps make repetitive jobs more tolerable. Employee scheduling software helps distribute shifts among various positions. More on that below.

Improve Communication

One of the most common complaints about employers and managers is lack of feedback. Employees need to know how they are performing. Managers shouldn’t assume that if production is humming along that everyone is satisfied.

Workforce management software can help you do performance reviews. Managers can track performance with a mobile app. Then they can set alerts to review performance with every employee on their team. Use information gleaned from employees to improve workplace conditions. Add these practiced to your retention plan.

Set Your Wage Rates on the High End

If your pay is not competitive, your employees will leave as soon as they find a better offer. As the labor crunch worsens, this will become easier. Figure out where you stand. Is your pay grade below average for your industry and market? It’s counterintuitive, but you may save money by raising wages to the upper levels.

How will you save?

It will take less time to fill open positions. This helps you avoid profit-shrinking slowdowns caused by understaffing. You will retain your experienced employees. Their competence helps you meet production deadlines more than you realize. One ten-year employee can often do the work of three new hires.

Evaluate industry wages often. They may increase faster than you think. Economic variables keep things fluid.

Treat Employees Fairly

Work with your managers and employees to create a fair time and attendance policy. Research has shown that manufacturing employees are often confused about policies. Many believe that they can’t miss even one day of work. Employees who fear punishment for an absence aren’t particularly loyal.

Supporting your employees’ lives outside of work can be as important as paying a competitive wage. Help employees meet their family responsibilities and you will keep them longer.

Reward employees for attendance and punctuality. Your workforce management software compiles the data. You can see at a glance who comes in on time and doesn’t abuse the system. Automated time and attendance is a must for large teams.

Improve Onboarding

Business owners have to keep dozens of balls in the air. Small manufacturers rarely have a large HR team. It often consists of one payroll manager. Understandably, the priority is meeting the payroll deadline every two weeks.

But someone needs to make sure onboarding is effective. Fair policies don’t improve employee retention if nobody knows about them.

Is your onboarding haphazard? (Or nonexistent?) Use workforce management onboarding tools to educate employees on policies. Train all employees—new and old—with the software. This doesn’t require a manager to hold a class with the whole team. Each employee can do it on their own in staggered shifts to keep production on track.

Workforce management for manufacturing has progress tracking and completion confirmation. These nifty tools make it easy for managers or owners to oversee onboarding or other training. They can do it from the plant floor on a tablet or smartphone.

Employees can even do the training at home on a mobile device. (Just make sure you pay them for their time. It’s illegal to require off-the-clock work.)

Rethink Your Shifts

One of the reasons manufacturing jobs get a bad rap is the long shifts commonplace in factory work. Before the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), some employers required 16- or 18-hour shifts. 12-hour shifts have been the norm for decades. It’s easy to understand why owners believe long shifts are necessary.

Continuous production (as opposed to batch) requires an uninterrupted operation. (Some chemical facilities have actually run nonstop for over two years without a maintenance shutdown!)

Manufacturers with around-the-clock staffing needs have an onerous employee scheduling burden. 12-hour shifts are easier to schedule and decrease shift handover problems. But they may cause more problems than they solve.

Long shifts increase the possibility of mistakes— which can cause serious injuries. Employees who work 12-hour shifts are more likely to get burned out and quit. Add frequent overtime and it’s a recipe for attrition disaster. If you currently have 12-hour shifts, moving to a days/swing/graveyard structure could improve retention.

Improve Employee Scheduling

With manufacturing employee scheduling software, plant supervisors can offer employee-friendly shifts and flexible scheduling. They can eliminate unexpected overtime while maintaining shift coverage.

If you have hired part-timers to maintain staffing levels, you have already complicated your scheduling. But this new reality shouldn’t require you to hire more scheduling managers.

Workforce management for manufacturing lets you build complicated 24-hour schedules in minutes. Manufacturing templates get you started quickly. Drag and drop employees into shifts. Copy schedules forward. View schedules by team, facility, or shift.

WorkforceHub for Manufacturing

WorkforceHub is an expert in workforce management for manufacturing. Thousands of manufacturers use WorkforceHub software to manage employee retention programs. See WorkforceHub for Manufacturing to learn more retention solutions for your company.

Simplify HR management today.

Simplify HR management today.

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