When a top performer unexpectedly resigns, morale dips, managers have to redistribute work, productivity falls off — the ripple effects can be incredibly far reaching. And it doesn’t help that skilled replacements are so hard to come by.

With that in mind, what can manufacturing and employers do to more effectively retain talent? Below, we’ve broken down everything you need to know, including three proven strategies you can deploy to reduce turnover and retain more high-value contributors today.

employee turnover: what it is — and why it matters

It’s probably impossible to prevent everyone from leaving your organization — some amount of employee turnover is inevitable. People retire, relocate or move to other positions within your company, for example, while others decide to change careers or leave full-time employment for family reasons.

Yet research also shows that a lot of employees — more than three out of four, in fact — wind up leaving for reasons that are entirely preventable. In many cases, what’s more, managers simply have no idea that employees are dissatisfied or considering other opportunities until it’s too late. And when the people leaving are highly skilled, valuable contributors, you’re left with some pretty big shoes to fill.

Plus, there’s the cost to consider. Between recruitment, training and onboarding, the financial outlays quickly add up. In fact, the average cost of training a single new employee for companies across the board is estimated to be over $1,000 — and, again, that’s for just one employee. Clearly, given that 77 percent of manufacturers anticipate having difficulty attracting talent in the year ahead, you’re better off investing in retaining existing employees than going out and finding new ones.

Finally, it’s also worth noting the extent to which turnover impacts organizational culture as well. There’s a reason you want your teams to be stable — especially if you’re in the middle of an extensive production run or going through a logistics expansion, for example. Yet when top-performing employees leave, what happens? Team dynamics change. People feel less motivated and engaged, and productivity often flags because of it.

prioritize retention, not replacement

To reduce employee turnover, it’s important to focus on retention initiatives before staff members start to leave — otherwise, you’re stuck with the recruitment, hiring and training costs mentioned earlier. But it’s hard to roll out the right retention strategies unless you know why your workers are leaving in the first place. 

Here are ten ways you can start gathering insights that might point you toward the answer.

  1. Create an anonymous survey: Employees might not feel comfortable talking about work issues or problems in a face-to-face setting. Instead, create anonymous surveys, frame it as a dialogue — and if need be, use incentives to encourage widespread participation.
  2. Conduct exit interviews: Exit interviews are a simple best practice — they’re the only way you’re going to know why people are leaving on a case-by-case basis. If you start to see patterns, focus on fixing the underlying issue.
  3. Speak to influential employees: Some workers naturally emerge as informal leaders — you know it when you see it, whether that’s during lunchtime or on the factory floor. Seek them out and speak to them about overall employee morale. Where could things be improved?
  4. Make engagement interviews routine: When engagement interviews happen as a matter of course, people tend to be far more open and candid with their feedback. Just be sure to make it clear that sharing information or raising red flags won’t jeopardize their employment status. Better yet, when employees provide helpful information, praise them for it.
  5. Don’t tolerate bad managers: Keep a close eye on supervisors and managers in your organization — and be sure to take complaints from employees seriously. What’s more, all managers should receive some kind of leadership training and be held accountable for their actions. If someone isn’t cutting it, you might need to shake things up.
  6. Analyze patterns: Is turnover more common in certain departments than others? Do specific employees in some roles leave more often than those in others? Analyze your data to see if any patterns stand out.
  7. Dissect your company’s culture: This is another area where workforce solutions providers can deliver a lot of value. They have the knowledge, expertise and outside perspective necessary to offer a deep-dive analysis of your company’s culture. From there, they can offer actionable recommendations for improvements.
  8. Evaluate engagement: When people feel engaged and interested in the work they’re performing, they tend to not only do their best on the job but stick around for the long haul, too. Do your top-performing employees feel fulfilled? Why or why not?
  9. Read between the lines: Is one of your highest-value workers suddenly underperforming? If so, don’t be passive. Find out what’s going on — and take them seriously and compassionately if they feel burned out or dissatisfied.

Assess policies and processes: Employees sometimes leave in response to specific policies — not enough time to eat lunch, for example. Reassess policies and procedures regularly to make sure they’re driving the outcomes that truly matter.

three powerful strategies for employee retention

Now that you have a sense of why your people are leaving, it’s time to take action. Here are three proven strategies that should help you decisively move the needle on retention. Plus, you should download our comprehensive guide to what drives turnover — and how you can prevent it.

1. offer flexible scheduling

The global pandemic changed the landscape of work in some dramatic ways. For example, office-based logistics personnel switched to remote work arrangements, adopted digital communication tools and began working from home. Some manufacturing employees followed suit, while others continued working onsite, albeit with new safety protocols in place, such as second shifts designed to minimize contact between workers.

Today, the reality is that some of these changes are here to stay — and more flexible scheduling is one of them. How can manufacturing and logistics employers offer it to their employees?

For starters, they should look into advanced new scheduling technology, which makes it possible to offer far greater scheduling flexibility than ever before. And for organizations concerned about retention or turnover, that could be a difference-maker. After all, when 95 percent of workers across the board say they want more flexible working hours, you’d better give it to them. 

For manufacturers, compressed schedules — in which employees work three or four longer shifts, followed by several days off — are another interesting option. Just be sure to frame it in terms of work-life balance — that is, as an alternative to the traditional five-day work weeks. Such an option might appeal to your people more than you think, especially in light of recent talent trends. Take the fact that, in the last year alone, a third of the people who switched jobs did so in order to have better work-life balance.

Whichever approach you choose, just make sure you have the right oversight and platforms in place. It’s the only way to ensure flexible scheduling delivers on the desired retention outcomes — and doesn’t wind up disrupting your business.

2. provide better training

People love to learn. And when they don’t feel like they have the opportunity to do so, they may be as much as 12 times more likely to leave your company. So offering training and development opportunities is absolutely key.

Obviously, the exact type of training you provide will depend a lot on your company, but it needs to begin right away — as soon as the onboarding process kicks off. From there, it should continue throughout the employee’s tenure, and ideally, encompass the following six areas.

  1. Orientation: At orientation training, you introduce your company’s culture, mission, values and organizational structure. New employees gain a better understanding of the landscape and begin to settle into their jobs.
  2. Onboarding: A well-rounded onboarding program represents a direct investment in your employees — and promotes better retention outcomes down the line. Onboarding should cover things like goals, technical aspects of the role, knowledge transfer, communication processes and more.
  3. Technical and hard skills: In the ramp up from onboarding, new team members acquire new skills through progressively more complex job-related training. Over time, as their skill sets evolve, they learn how to perform key tasks independently.
  4. Soft skills: Employees should be exposed to training that focuses on people-related skills like communication, leadership, conflict resolution, ethics and more. You can also use this type of training to build trust within teams and identify potential leaders.
  5. Quality control: Quality is typically a key component of training in the manufacturing and logistics spaces. It’s the only way to ensure that your products or services satisfy relevant quality standards.
  6. Safety: Safety training is a legal must-have in most manufacturing and logistics environments. Employees learn safety policies and procedures, how to use safety equipment properly, how to administer first aid and similar. Industry-specific safety topics might also be covered.

3. work with a strategic partner

Flexible scheduling and training programs are two steps that will undoubtedly help improve employee retention. But there’s a third highly effective way to reduce staff turnover: working with a strategic partner.

The best partners understand how to move the needle on retention, and they can work collaboratively with your key stakeholders to drive the outcomes that matter. Plus, because they have literally thousands of qualified manufacturing and logistics candidates in their pipelines, if and when vacancies occur, they can easily step in to provide replacements. Access to this combination of expert knowledge and on-demand talent usually translates to a whole lot of ROI for employers.

Finally, note that these strategic partners are also able to provide ongoing support, training, upskilling, reskilling and more to workers even after you’ve hired them. Over the long run, that often pays dividends when it comes to your overall rate of retention.

how randstad can help

We’re the recognized experts when it comes to sourcing talent, strengthening workforces and driving business outcomes that matter. We understand the challenges of today’s talent marketplace — and by extension, the value of retaining the talent you already have. Plus, with our unmatched pool of screened and qualified manufacturing and logistics candidates available on demand, we can also step in to help you fill vacancies if and when they occur.

To learn more, contact us today — or download our comprehensive guide to employee retention.