Despite recession-related gloom and doom forecasts about the state of the North-American manufacturing industry, there are over 50,000 manufacturing firms in Canada and the US that are alive, well, and hiring new employees every day. But not all the hiring news from the manufacturing sector is positive, and managers in this industry face their own unique challenges when it comes to staffing open positions, maintaining productivity and controlling turnover.

4 Key Talent Management Challenges facing the Manufacturing Sector:

1. Finding and keeping skilled Talent: Specialized skill sets make some positions in the manufacturing industry hard to staff. While manufacturing once depended heavily on line workers executing transferable or non-skilled tasks, automation and computerization have taken over vast sections of the industry, and employees hold greater control over how these resources are deployed and managed. Computerized machine tooling, for example, is a challenging position that tends to stand open. CNC certified workers are hard to find, and since they’re rare and have invested heavily in their training, they command high salaries. Finding and retaining a well-stocked talent pool of specialized staff is a constant burden on HR in this sector.

2. Training is unavoidable: Because of the highly-specialized skills and experience required in this industry, on-the-job training is unavoidable and crucial to ensure business efficiency. In order to find and retain the skill sets they need, some employers are simply hiring candidates with high potential and training them in house. This can be logistically complicated, and it can also be costly, since each employee requires coaching, tracking, and long term investment. Having a proven plan and execution strategy for finding and developing skilled workers is of the utmost importance in this industry. Technology-enabled performance and development planning technology like emPerform is helping to streamline this vital process. By allowing managers and HR to set and track training & development initiatives, things move a lot smoother and employees are kept on track.

3. Succession planning: do or die: Because manufacturing organizations invest so much in training their staff, it only makes sense that they hedge their bets by identifying and retaining their key players. Turnover is however, a normal aspect of business and can be quite costly if plans aren’t mapped to quickly and properly fill positions as they become vacant. Savvy manufacturing companies aren’t taking risks when it comes to paying out for needless succession gaps. Instead, they are investing in performance management technology that gives them the real-time performance and succession data needed to ensure succession gaps don’t slow anything down.

Propulsys Inc. is a leading manufacturer of hydraulic drive products. They rely on a global team of over 500 employees to deliver world-class products and customer service. Their Global Director of Human Resources, Larry Dean, commented on the challenges with succession planning in the manufacturing industry. “Succession planning and setting performance goals are critical processes that challenge a manufacturing company every day. Using accurate performance data as a basis for succession forecasting and decision making is critical to our success and saves us countless dollars in future training and development.” Propulsys uses emPerform to ensure that company-wide performance expectations are consistently aligned with corporate objectives, and that succession gaps can be identified and addressed in an efficient manner.

4. Deciding whether or not to outsource: Outsourcing can be a tempting alternative for manufacturing companies looking for relatively lower costs, and employers often have difficult decisions to make about where to locate the engines of production. While moving jobs overseas can help employers cut costs in some circumstances, hiring at home can offer a wide range of non-monetary benefits, including tighter control over training, quality control, and talent deployment. Careful planning, sophisticated software, and a rigorous analysis of available resources—both staffing and material—can make these decisions easier. Before any decisions are being made, it is essential to know the current status of people output and whether or not that can be further optimized.

Every industry faces unique challenges when it comes to talent management. Finding and keeping great employees with the right skills is a challenge that will continue to burden the manufacturing industry. The good news is that just like what automation did for the assembly line, technology is doing for employee performance management and talent retention.

emPerform has helped many companies in the manufacturing sector automate, streamline, and  improve their performance management and succession planning processes. emPerform comes standard with the nine-box talent matrix for succession planning. Employees ready for advancement can be easily identified and employees in need of development can be addressed. Results from the Succession Manager can be monitored in real-time or exported for decision making.

To learn more about emPerform, download the product tour video.