Reducing employee turnover in manufacturing is a big focus for companies these days given low unemployment, labor shortages and skill gaps. When employees quit and temps don't return it's not only costly, but it can decrease productivity, customer satisfaction and overall company morale. 

A report from Tooling U-SME, a leading provider of manufacturing training solutions, indicates that voluntary turnover costs companies hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars each year. Understanding turnover causes and costs are the first steps toward creating a company of long-term and productive employees. Consider the following strategies to help reduce employee turnover and increase retention at your manufacturing plant. 

1.) Set Employment Expectations

It's important that expectations are set properly during the hiring process and that you have a strong on-boarding program for new production employees. Develop strong mentors and trainers that will support these employees throughout their training period and beyond. 

Make sure that your new employees know exactly what is expected of them. Beyond a basic job description, your new employees should also be aware of: 

  • The expected quality of work
  • Depth of knowledge that should be exhibited 
  • Boundaries of their specific role and responsibilities 

It's important that these types of expectations are not only clearly communicated but mutually agreed upon as well. 


2.) Invest In Employee Training

When a new full-time or temp employee starts, significant time and resources should be dedicated to their training and ramp-up phase. This can include training in a classroom setting as well as training on the plant floor. Try to reduce the stress during their training period and make sure they have the tools and mentors they need to succeed. 

3.) Open Lines of Communication 

Open communication with your employees can make them feel more invested in their positions and the company as a whole. Involve employees in decisions that affect their jobs. Make sure your production workers know their opinions are valued and foster an environment where they feel comfortable sharing what they like and do not like about their jobs. 

4.) Make Employees Comfortable 

Manufacturing can be a tough and demanding industry to work in which is partly why employee retention can be a challenge. Long hours on your feet, hot conditions, production deadlines and required overtime can put a lot of pressure on employees, so do what you can to make them comfortable. Offer work boot reimbursements, purchase anti-fatigue floor mats to reduce the strain of standing and provide employees comfortable seating in break rooms and rest areas.

5.) Proactively Address Safety and Job-Related Risks 

Focus on finding the hazards at your manufacturing facility and develop plans for preventing and controlling those hazards. It's important that both Management and employees take part in identifying these hazards and ensuring they're addressed. 

Manufacturing workers face increased safety risks, so proper PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) is a must, as is being proactive about injury prevention. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) recommends being proactive with injury and illness prevention programs which are effective at reducing injuries, illnesses as well as fatalities. 

6.) Create Employee Recognition Programs

Create a recognition program and award employees for going above and beyond, for being safe and for being productive. Share positive metrics and celebrate company successes. Little things such as public recognition, bonuses or earning additional time off can go a long way towards making your employees feel valued and appreciated. 

7.) Reduce Overtime With Contingency Staffing 

Work-life balance is important to full-time employees, especially when they have families. Plus, tired and overworked employees increase safety risks, so if your full-time employees have been working a lot of overtime then consider using temporary staffing and contingency staffing. 

If you can hire enough experienced and skilled temporary labor from your local staffing agencies then that's probably the best solution. With unemployment so low, however, many temp agencies are having the same trouble you are at fining experienced talent around your manufacturing facility because there simply isn't anyone available to hire. 

If you're having high-turnover with local temps because they're unskilled and not experienced in manufacturing environments, then you may want to consider contingency staffing. Contingency staffing agencies like MADI draw experienced manufacturing talent from across the United States and they aren't limited to the talent available in your area. That means they're able to deliver more experienced workers and larger numbers of workers than your local staffing agency. 

8.) Conduct Exit Interviews 

Conducting exit interviews is invaluable; make sure to gather information from employees when they're leaving so you begin to identify areas for improvement.  The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recommends asking some of these exit interview questions

  • How did you learn about the job opening for your new position? 
  • Were the duties and demands of your job here described accurately during the interview process? 
  • Describe your work environment.
  • What improvements can you suggest to your department or to your job? 
  • Were you and your supervisor able to work together effectively? 
  • How would you describe your supervisors management style? 
  • What did you like least about working here? 
  • What did you like most about working here? 
  • Would you consider returning to this company if a position were available in the future? 

Understanding WHY your employees are leaving is the first step in making changes to reduce employee turnover. The next step is evaluating the feedback to see what changes should be made to existing procedures or policies. 

Multi-Site Manufacturing Companies

High employee turnover at multi-site manufacturing companies with thousands of production employees can cost companies millions of dollars annually. A coordinated approach across all sites to survey employees on supervisory leadership and local work environments can provide Executives with insights about what's happening across the entire company. Once collected and analyzed, this data that can be turned into concrete action plans for front-line supervisors to implement.

Let us know in the comments what strategies have been successful at your manufacturing facility and across your organization.

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