HR teams in any organization have one of the most challenging jobs as the economy and industries rapidly evolve. This is truer in the case of the manufacturing industry, where rapid advancement in technology can derail the traditional HR processes. Perhaps that’s why the HR departments within the manufacturing industry should always evolve with the industry itself – otherwise, keeping pace with the changes can be a Herculean task. The success of HR will depend on the proper and timely identification of challenges and leverage of the opportunities by innovation.
Let us look at some of the common challenges faced by the HR teams across manufacturing industries.
Shortage of Qualified Workforce
While automation has made things easier for various industries such as metal part machining and PCB manufacturing, the unavailability of a qualified workforce has been on the rise too. Most STEM graduates prefer glamorous workplaces and tend to avoid the workplaces which were traditionally deemed to be unsafe, unclean, or regressive. This, along with the misconception that manufacturing doesn’t offer competitive wages, has led to a shortage of qualified workforce. Furthermore, the general belief that automation and innovation take out the human factor from the equation has also led to the workforce shrinking in manufacturing industries.
With a lesser supply of fresh human capital and the loss of an experienced, highly skilled workforce due to retirement, it is pertinent to address this issue at the earliest. Without the right mix of human capital, no industry can hope to survive or stay competitive.
As there is a shortage of skilled workers, it becomes even more difficult to recruit new talents in the industry. However, the problems posed by the manufacturing industry are deep-rooted and systemic. For instance, you might need a highly specialized engineer in your machining unit and an experienced person in your electrical component manufacturing unit. However, the nature of these jobs would inherently limit the number of potential candidates with the right qualifications. Add the usual problems such as stagnant recruiting budgets and lack of emphasis on campus recruitment to this mix and the manufacturing industry doesn’t come out as a competitive choice for the potential workforce. The lack of people with the right skill sets in R&D departments compounds the problems for HR.
A possible way out of this situation could be tie-ups with start-ups. Adopt a market research-driven strategy to communicate and appeal to graduates so they can join the manufacturing industry for innovative and stimulating work.
Retention and Attrition
Regardless of the industry, employee retention and attrition are the common challenges the HR departments face. Retaining highly skilled workers is the greatest challenge for any HR department. In the manufacturing industry, this can be even more difficult as it is naturally prone to high turnover rates as people always explore new and exciting opportunities elsewhere. If there is a lack of investment in employee growth and development programs, the workers are likely to leave the organization sooner. Other reasons for employee attrition are stagnant pay packages, uninspiring benefit programs, and a poor work environment.
This can be curtailed to an extent by offering exciting training and development opportunities, competitive compensation packages, and benefits, along with a positive work environment.
Low Employee Engagement
One of the challenges that HR teams in the manufacturing industries face is lower employee engagement. To leverage the power and insight provided by the workforce, manufacturing industries must improve their ability to create and foster engaging work environments. Traditionally, the industry has one of the lowest figures for employee engagement. The lack of proper employee feedback and communication tools, coupled with the sheer size of the workforce is a big challenge. Furthermore, several manufacturing industries tend to spread their employee base in multiple locations and across geographical distances. In several cases, the leadership and senior management might be located in a completely different city, state, or country than the bulk of the workforce.
A good way to bridge this gap is to engage the trade unions and communicate through them to the employees. It can be a good way to reach out in the case of machining industries or the industries that are engaged in the manufacturing of electrical components, among others.
Apart from these common challenges, HR teams face challenges arising from global competition. However, most of the challenges can be overcome through solutions such as:
- Attracting millennials
- Streamlining the recruitment process
- Employee empowerment
- Promoting better work culture
- Offering competitive benefits packages
- Elimination of technology gaps
Above all, the ability to adapt and align to the changing times is an essential skill that every HR practitioner working in the manufacturing sector must master. It will ensure greater efficiency and employee satisfaction.
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