How to Accelerate New Manufacturing Job Skills

March 30, 2023
  • John Hindman
    By John Hindman
    Director of Learning Services
    Tooling U-SME


Are you struggling to create a culture of high performers to increase productivity, improve safety, reduce scrap, and drive growth? 

You are not alone. Many manufacturers, especially small companies, are facing many of the same challenges. Finding skilled employees, including recruiting, retaining and training, remains at the top of the priority list. 

Five years ago, 84 percent of manufacturers said their top workforce challenges included onboarding new employees and 99 percent were challenged with finding skilled new hires[1]. These same challenges still keep business owners up at night after five years. 

Clearly, it’s time to try something different. 

With limited time, budget, and resources, focusing on one specific training area is a great place to begin. Manufacturers often tell me they need help building the skills and competencies of new hires to keep them engaged so try starting here. 

The employment landscape has changed significantly over the years, with many job candidates having little to no manufacturing experience. Creating a formal — and realistic — training program can help new hires build their confidence through small achievements, ensuring they build the skills needed for success. 

Growth demands investing in people, and with a systematic approach, best practices for training new hires does not have to be daunting.

[1] Tooling U-SME Industry Pulse: Manufacturing Workforce Report

Here are four key initiatives to accelerate new hires’ skills in 2023: 

  1. Strong Onboarding Process. While “orientation” can be completed in one day, onboarding is accomplished typically in a 90-day period. A structured introductory period helps build a strong foundation, teaching knowledge and skills before new employees are on their own. An organized program inspires confidence and makes a positive first impression. New hires quickly understand the company culture and their responsibilities. Losing a new employee to a chaotic onboarding program costs time and money. Taking steps like emailing a welcome package with key information (start time, contact, location, dress code, etc.) before the first day, assigning a dedicated mentor, arranging a meet-and-greet with top company leadership, sharing a detailed training agenda, outlining clear career pathways, and more will help new hires connect immediately to your company and set the foundation for a productive future together. 
  2. Formal Training Program. An informal transfer of company policies and procedures by senior employees — the passing along of institutional knowledge — is not an effective method of training. Successful companies create and administer standardized learning and development programs tied to competency development and career growth. An effective training strategy aligns to a manufacturer’s business objectives and delivers measurable ROI, helping companies identify gaps that prevent them from reaching maximum performance. One of the important benefits of a formal training program is consistency. For instance, new hires starting today will learn the same information as those starting six months from now. Training becomes scalable and repeatable, saving time and producing better results. 
  3. Flexible Learning. When it comes to quickly developing skills and preparing new hires to be floor-ready, technology can be an asset. Manufacturers tell us that their employees of all ages appreciate the fact that our online training provides anywhere, anytime learning that's accessible on phones, tablets, and computers. Unexpected downtime? Some companies enable access to training right from the floor. If employees would prefer to catch up at home, they can take a class on their smart phone. Overall, building a culture of continual education strengthens retention. Gallup found that "quiet quitters," employees who put only enough effort into their jobs to do the minimum required, make up at least 50 percent of the U.S. workforce. One area that contributed to engagement decline was related to opportunities to learn and grow. New hires want to see how their work contributes to an organization's larger purpose. Outlining clear career pathways from day one can help ensure employees see a vision of their successful future with your company. 
  4. Train the Trainer. Engagement studies often declare that employees’ reason for leaving is tied to unhappiness with direct supervisors. For instance, a recent Boston Consulting Group survey showed that deskless workers (including those working in factories) who are dissatisfied with their managers are 50 percent more likely to feel burned out, three times more likely not to recommend their employer as a place to work, and twice as likely to leave. Building a learning culture and ensuring that those responsible for training new hires (in smaller businesses, typically several different people share the role) have the knowledge and skills to develop and nurture them is critical for building and maintaining a manufacturing workforce. 

Investing in a strong workforce has never been more important. Take a fresh look at how you are training your teams from day one — and gain a competitive advantage for years to come. 

Want to learn more? Download the Industry Pulse: Manufacturing Workforce Report and call us at 866.706.8665 with any questions. 

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