How Manufacturing Can Strategically Plan for the Future of Its Workforce



Manufacturing organizations—or companies that create new products through mechanical, physical, or chemical transformation—are essential to a thriving American economy. The United States exported $1.2 trillion worth of manufactured goods in 2020, and demand for U.S. products continues to rise.


Yet, while the desire for American exports grows, our current manufacturing workforce is shrinking and stagnating. Deloitte research predicts that the American manufacturing industry will need 4 million new workers by 2030, but this forward-thinking industry is facing a substantial shift in what’s expected from its workforce. Plus, an aging workforce poses even more challenges for manufacturing firms. Now, companies must be more agile to expand employee skillsets and attract talent to modern manufacturing careers.


Strategic workforce planning in manufacturing helps organizations meet their industry’s evolving demands. By understanding the workforce’s current standing and needs within your company, and the industry as a whole, you can develop an effective strategic workforce plan to support your organization’s growth. 


Here’s how your manufacturing company can create a strategic plan to support the power-driven workforce of the future.


A snapshot of the manufacturing workforce

The manufacturing workforce is in a moment of transition, but those changes are indicative of more evolution to come. As companies embrace technological advancements to improve operations and productivity, the expectations placed on new and existing talent continue to expand.


Job scope and skills are evolving

Workers in manufacturing jobs are seeing the scope of their jobs and the skills needed to complete their work change dramatically due to digitalization. Over 83% of the fastest-growing manufacturing occupations will require a new skill set that goes beyond the scope of basic reskilling efforts. To fill the widening skills gap between current manufacturing talent and future positions, companies will need to prioritize both uniquely human soft skills and technical skills to adapt.


Companies struggle to find qualified talent

According to Deloitte, identifying and hiring the right employees is 1.4 times harder for manufacturing companies in 2021 than it was in 2018. College degree programs may teach ‌the business capabilities necessary for roles in manufacturing, but often don’t extend to the technical skills needed for hands-on positions.


Human Resources (HR) for manufacturing companies face two central challenges when hiring: attracting entry-level talent out of high school or with transferable skills from industries like hospitality, and filling middle-skill roles requiring specific technical skills learned on the job.


The skilled aging workforce is retiring

Many workers who already have the necessary skills for these positions are part of an aging workforce that’s slated to retire soon. However, without entry-level hires to train, the aging population has few employees to pass on their expertise to, creating even larger gaps in the manufacturing workforce shortage.


Employers must adopt a new approach to address the talent shortage and encourage talent to join the manufacturing industry. Strategic manufacturing workforce planning is the only way for organizations to keep up with the projected rapid growth happening within their industry.


Planning for the future of a power-driven workforce

As the aging workforce prepares to retire, now is the time for manufacturing HR teams to proactively plan for the changes the evolving workforce will bring. 


Creating a strategic workforce plan starts with maintaining a clear understanding of your organization and its needs. Without accurate data, your company will struggle to understand the impending skill gaps your organization will experience as workers retire. Using manufacturing workforce management software collates that data to offer a bird’s-eye view of your organization’s staffing needs. That information is essential to maintaining your position in the marketplace and helping your organization evolve. 


Skill assessments show where you’ll need to hire new employees and upskill or reskill your current workforce. Finding new talent relies on knowing which skills are needed, but those skills may be hard to find while hiring. Instead, focus on filling your talent pipeline by leveraging modern technology to get a better view of granular financial data alongside your position-based architecture. This helps you decide which staffing needs to prioritize so you can focus on position-based hiring, where you fill roles with employees possessing the necessary soft skills and the capacity to learn the hard skills.


Then, form robust training programs to support manufacturing workforce development, both for new and existing employees. You can leverage your older workers’ experience to properly train and foster leadership in young talent. 


However, that doesn’t mean your new employees should only adapt to how your business has always been. Instead, evaluate where you can foster a proactive stance on tasks, maintenance, and performance tracking. Workplace automation can simplify manual processes and track performance automatically, making your operations more efficient. 


Together, these elements can help you mitigate common manufacturing HR challenges and form a strategic workforce plan that prepares your company for the industry’s impending growth demands.


Simplify Planning with the Right Technology

Strategic workplace planning involves a variety of moving parts. Without the right support, many organizations will struggle to make the changes necessary to prepare their workforce before their aging workforce retires. 


Technology can make workforce planning for manufacturing significantly easier. Dynamic tools like integrated training and skills assessments, granular financial reporting, position-based architecture, and a centralized employee database give companies a high-level overview of their staffing needs, helping them successfully plan for their needs in the future. 


The right data makes a big difference in workplace decision-making. Persistent role-based data eliminates hours of busy work and frees your HR team to take a more active role in engaging with the organization on a more personal level. SyncHR is here to support you with efficient, accurate, and cost-effective workforce management solutions. 


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Interested in reading more about workforce planning?


Click here to download a white paper to learn how to build a framework around strategic workforce planning that can improve operational agility, efficiency, and performance for a greater competitive advantage.

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John Cuellar

John Cuellar

John is responsible for SyncHR’s product, engineering, and system operations teams. He is focused on streamlining the business processes related to HCM and finance by distributing SyncHR to all members of the workforce and by using patented security and workflow to control these developments. John is also responsible for delivering SyncHR as a cloud based application with “extreme ratio” financial metrics.

He has a background in engineering, workplace applications, and business administration, bringing over 25 years of experience deploying strategic HCM applications. Prior to co-founding SyncHR, John was the CEO of Harbor Technologies, since acquired by Mellon Financial Corporation. Previous to Harbor Technology Group, he spent an internship with the Swiss Bank Corporation in their derivatives pricing and trading group and also worked as a senior manager for the US Navy. John received his Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of California at Santa Barbara, and his Master of Business Administration from the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley.

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