The Quality Workforce Challenge: 5 Strategies to Create a Strategic, Sustainable Training Program

According to a recent survey from the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), maintaining a quality workforce is a top priority for nearly 75% of companies. On the flip side, Industry Week reported that more than half of manufacturing employees plan to leave their jobs within a year.

Clearly, the tight labor market is showing no signs of loosening. Many manufacturers have put initiatives in place to get workers in the door, such as short-term incentives, but what is the long-term strategy? How can we set ourselves up for success in the present and further down the road?

Now more than ever it is critical to establish a long-term, sustainable and strategic training program for your organization. By creating a culture of continuous learning, you can more easily fill gaps when needed, build a strong onboarding program for recruits and empower new and innovative thinking at all levels in your company.

Here are five strategies to consider as you tackle one of your toughest challenges: maintaining a quality workforce.

  1. Train your plant floor supervisors first.

In talking with colleagues and customers, a major point of frustration is what feels like a constant cycle of training, onboarding and retraining—then repeat.

A great solution is to provide more extensive training for plant floor supervisors. This group will be less likely to turn over at the same pace as floor workers, and with a greater depth of knowledge, the supervisors can train and teach new employees about your company’s processes, equipment, quality control measures and success metrics.

In short, investing in your supervisors will go a long way toward ensuring all other plant employees are properly trained.

  1. Make learning an intrinsic part of your culture.

This is easier said than done. To achieve this goal, you must first understand the current training landscape of your company and its skills gaps. You can use tools like skills audits, performance reviews, or feedback surveys to gather this information. And whatever you uncover, put a plan in place to build on the good things and address where your company might be falling short.

And when you have that plan in place—communicate it. Set expectations with all employees and make them a part of their learning and development process.

  1. Encourage cross-training.

A sound, long-term strategy is to build a staff that can complete multiple tasks, handle different types of projects, and adapt to changing situations.

By cross-training and implementing “rotations,” staff can learn how to do different jobs while gaining a broader perspective on the company. They will learn new skills and avoid the boredom that can come from doing the same task day in and day out.

  1. Empower creative thinking.

Create a culture where your staff are motivated to learn new things and improve their work processes. You can do this by providing access to online courses, workshops, seminars or industry events. You can also reward your staff for coming up with new ideas, solutions, or products that can benefit your company.

  1. Support teamwork and collaboration.

Your staff can learn from each other and share their expertise and experience. You can foster teamwork and collaboration by giving them an ongoing forum to discuss common challenges and solutions. This can be done as part of regular team meetings, or as weekly or monthly time set aside specifically for knowledge share.

Invest in the Future

Just like we invest in new equipment and processes, we must invest in upskilling our workforce. By doing so, we not only enhance their skills and knowledge but also motivate them to perform better and achieve more.

At the end of the day, a strategic training program can help you reduce costs, improve quality and increase customer satisfaction. It can also give you a competitive edge in the market and prepare you for future challenges and opportunities.

Joe Erb is a national account manager for Quanex.