June 30, 2015 / best practices, continuous improvement, employee incentives, Employee Morale, maintaining talent, operator training, skills gap, strategic planning
As any successful manager understands, a company is only as good as its employees. Although metal companies have traditionally spent more on equipment than on people, the tide is changing. With a shortage of skilled production workers, manufacturers are finding that it is not only beneficial but necessary to invest in their workforce.
For example, according to results from a 2014 survey from Prime Advantage, a buying group for manufacturing firms, companies stated that while they are growing and looking to hire, finding qualified workers is becoming harder. In fact, survey respondents listed “access to qualified workers” as the top growth barrier for small and mid-sized industrial manufacturers.
Attacking this “skills gap” will require many companies to change the way they train and maintain talent, whether by beefing up training programs or rethinking hiring tactics. Below are a few strategies roller ball and bearing manufacturers can use to fully equip new employees, while also optimizing the skill set of their existing workforce:
- Train. As more and more baby boomers retire, managers are quickly losing expertise on the shop floor. According to the white paper, The Top Five Operating Challenges Ball and Roller Bearing Manufacturers Face in Industrial Metal-Cutting, implementing a strong, ongoing training program is essential to fill the skills gaps left by retired employees. Programs should include both skills and leadership training for new and existing operators. Just like existing customers are often the greatest source of new business, the underdeveloped potential of existing employees can be an operation’s greatest source of new talent.
- Partner. On top of retirement, manufacturers are also struggling to attract new talent. Younger generations are typically less attracted to careers in manufacturing than other industries, which means companies must proactively work with outside sources to ensure access to good talent. Leading bearing manufacturer Timken Co., for example, is working with Apprenticeship 2000, an apprenticeship partnership located in the Charlotte, NC region. The goal of the program is to offer technical career opportunities to high school students and employment after graduation. Timken and other sponsoring companies provide students with onsite training that goes toward a technical degree students earn upon graduation. In return, the partnering companies have access to highly skilled employees who have been trained to fit their technical needs.
- Engage. Of course, a trained employee is only beneficial if he or she sticks around. To maintain good talent, more and more manufacturers are focusing on employee engagement. As an editorial published in IndustryWeek asserts, “Employees want to think, learn and contribute to improving their work.” Companies that fail to embrace this ideology, the article states, are limiting their success. Collecting feedback from operators, walking the floor, offering bonuses and other incentives are a few ways managers can encourage employee ownership and build employee loyalty. Put simply, operators who feel valued are more likely to value their jobs, their work, and their employer.