Manufacturing Leaders’ Top 7 Tips to Retain Your Best Workers in Times of Scarcity

Dr. Kevin Gazzara
5 min readDec 4, 2023

Special thanks to Tip Harris (@Tip-hHarris), James Schuler (@James-Schuler), Rob McBroom (@Rob-McBroom), and Carlos Garcia (@Carlos-Garcia) for their practical insights as experienced Manufacturing Plant and Operations Managers.

Introduction

In today’s highly competitive job market, finding and hiring is crucial for the success and stability of any organization. Click to read my hiring tips article. Even if you hire the right people, if you can’t keep them, you will be creating a perpetual system for long-term failure. Plant managers and Operations Managers play a pivotal role in understanding and ensuring the success and efficiency of their operations. To achieve this, they must retain a talented workforce that can meet the demands of modern manufacturing. This article explores valuable insights and tips from experienced plant and operations managers on how they retain their best workers to ensure productivity, stability, and success in manufacturing plants.

In this article we will share our best tips to help you retain your best workers. Although focused on manufacturing, you will find many of the recommendations valuable for other industries as well.

Retention Tips

1. Recognize and Reward Excellence

One of the fundamental principles of retaining top talent is recognizing and rewarding excellence. Plant managers emphasize the importance of acknowledging employees’ hard work and achievements. According to research by O’Leary and Mortensen (2019), “Recognizing and rewarding high-performing employees fosters job satisfaction, increases motivation, and reduces turnover.” This recognition can take various forms, including monetary incentives, promotions, public praise, or other non-monetary rewards such as extra time off.

“You need to build teams, and the best way to build teams is recognize your people by placing your trust in them. Above all, empower your people, because my way is not the only way.” Carlos Garcia — Senior Operations Specialist

2. Provide Opportunities for Career Advancement

advancement opportunities are a powerful incentive for employees to stay committed to their current organization. Plant managers recommend establishing clear career paths and development plans for employees, enabling them to see a future within the company. Offering training and educational programs that enhance employees’ skills and qualifications can also demonstrate a commitment to their professional growth.

3. Foster a Positive Work Environment

Creating a positive work environment is crucial for retaining top talent. Plant managers stress the importance of promoting a culture of respect, open communication, and collaboration. An inclusive and supportive workplace encourages employees to remain engaged and committed to their roles (Eisenbeiss et al., 2019).

“Spend the time setting the stage for a positive work environment by focusing on your on-boarding. Personalization goes a long way. This keeps the culture and team spirit alive from day one.” James Schuler — Factory Operations Manager — Paragon Space Development Corporation

4. Encourage Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance is a significant factor in retaining employees, especially in manufacturing where long hours and physical demands are common. Plant managers recommend implementing flexible work arrangements when possible, allowing employees to balance their personal and professional lives effectively. This can improve job satisfaction and reduce burnout.

5. Invest in Employee Development

Investing in employee development not only enhances their skills but also demonstrates a commitment to their growth and long-term success. Plant managers recommend offering ongoing training and opportunities for employees to learn and acquire new skills. This not only benefits the employees but also improves the overall capabilities of the workforce.

“I have learned that if you want to help develop your people you should start by finding out what they’re personally interested in. Then you use that interest to develop innate skills and help translate them into their job.” Rob McBroom — Vice President of Operations — Rosen Aviation

6. Provide Competitive Compensation and Benefits

Competitive compensation packages and benefits are essential for retaining top talent. Plant managers emphasize the need to regularly review and adjust salaries to ensure they remain in line with industry standards. Offering attractive benefits such as healthcare, retirement plans, and performance-based bonuses can make employees more likely to stay with the company.

7. Solicit and Act on Employee Feedback

Listening to employees’ feedback is crucial for identifying and addressing concerns or areas for improvement. Plant managers advocate for regular feedback sessions and surveys to gather insights from employees. Taking action on their suggestions and concerns demonstrates that their voices are heard and valued. Gathering feedback without addressing the identified issues or taking action have been identified as a top demotivator to employee satisfaction.

“The one thing you always have to remember, is to treat every one of your employees, from junior to senior, with dignity, respect, and listen to what they have to say. When you receive the gift of feedback, you want to look for every coachable moment. And really, everything you do with your team is a coachable moment whether it is addressing a good or bad outcome, no matter what the effort was.” Tip Harris — Operations Supervisor — MPLX

Conclusion

Retaining your best workers in manufacturing plants is essential for achieving operational excellence and long-term success. By following these tips and insights from experienced plant and operations managers, organizations can significantly increase their chances of retaining their top talent. Ultimately, a strategic hiring approach and a proactive approach to retaining talent as your most important asset will keep your facilities adequately resourced and your customers happy.

References:

Eisenbeiss, S. A., Knippenberg, D. V., & Boerner, S. (2019). Transformational Leadership and Team Innovation: Integrating Team Climate Principles. Journal of Applied Psychology, 104(2), 143–156.

O’Leary, D. V., & Mortensen, M. (2019). Rewarding Stars for Going the Extra Mile: Managerial Indulgence and Social Exchange in Teams. Academy of Management Journal, 62(4), 1065–1088.

About the Author

Dr. Kevin Gazzara — is a senior partner and founder of Magna Leadership Solutions, based in Phoenix, Arizona. Kevin is an international speaker and recognized as a Management & Leadership Expert and an Executive Coach. He is the coauthor of “The Leader of OZ” www.leaderofoz.com. Kevin has been a professor at 6 Universities, developing and teaching programs to help others achieve their full potential. Follow Kevin and Magna Leadership Solutions here:

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I would be excited to speak with you about your current hiring and retention challenges. Please click here to connect with me at: https://Magnaleadershipkevin.youcanbook.me

Thank you,
Dr. Kevin Gazzara
Senior Partner and Certified Positive Intelligence & ICF Coach
Magna Leadership Solutions LLC
Kevin@MagnaLeadership.com

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Dr. Kevin Gazzara

CEO of Magna Leadership Solutions, Certified Positive Intelligence Coach, Management Expert, Professor, Speaker, and Author. Contact: Kevin@Magnaleadership.com