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Creating an Effective Workforce Development Plan

Sunday, August 22, 2021 | Manufacturing, Workforce

Factory workers discussing their work.

Since industrialization shifted its first gears and powered its operations by mechanical means, there has always been a need among manufacturers to consider what’s coming next? What new and improved machinery will enhance production and efficiency while, dare one dream, reduce cost? Today, it’s much the same as digitization has many operations in flux, attempting to transition from older systems to new, better ones. 

One thing that does remain consistent among manufacturing companies is to ensure a competent workforce that has the skills needed to not only perform current processes but also to adapt quickly to new ones, providing the company with reliable support. A reliable workforce isn’t something that can be left to chance. Today’s manufacturers understand that a high-quality team needs nurturing, ongoing training and development, targeted recruiting, and more to ensure that it continues to meet the company’s workforce goals. Here, we’ll outline why a workforce development plan is so important for manufacturers and provide ideas for creating a robust plan that works.

The Importance of Strong Workforce Development Plans

First, let’s talk about the key challenge facing manufacturers today. We already know half the story--the necessity to digitize and embrace new technologies. The other half of the story is finding workers who have the skills to operate this new technology or, indeed, to drive further company innovation. Finding and recruiting employees with the necessary skills has become a substantial obstacle for companies. Creating an effective workforce development plan is an essential strategy for companies that want to recruit and retain top talent in an increasingly competitive manufacturing marketplace. 

Creating a Successful Workforce Development Plan

A sound workforce development plan is twofold. It should foster and retain your existing talent pool and provide recruiting strategies for attracting new talent. The following steps can make up the framework for your company’s development plans and opportunities. 

Identify Your Objectives

A strong workforce development plan should be aligned with the company’s objectives as well as its current and ongoing needs. For instance, where is the training most crucial? What aspects of your workforce need an overhaul? What skills does your company need today and tomorrow to support its success? These questions will help you develop your plan’s strategic workforce objectives. 


Initiating a training regimen is often paramount to a manufacturing workforce development plan, but there are pitfalls. For instance, training can sometimes be redundant. Do you have a mechanism in place to deliver the knowledge and skills your employees need? Do you have a plan in place to train your instructors? Where, precisely, does your team need training and development? You can create a training program that is tailored to your workforce’s particular needs. 

Employee Development

In-house training programs are ideal for transferring knowledge from veteran workers to new workers, but workforce development should accompany your in-house training programs. For instance, your plan can include advanced equipment training (with a budget line) for some of your team members. Learning the ins and outs of new equipment and techniques will help your company to innovate over time. 

You might also offer tuition reimbursement programs, which employees typically view as a benefit, but their education benefits your operation too. The more knowledge and development they have, the more skills and expertise they bring to your workplace. Encouraging attendance at trade shows can also benefit your team and enhance your workforce development plan. Investing in your employees builds their morale, increases employee retention, and contributes to your business's success.

Many companies are striving to create job ladders within their company. These 'ladders' provide a clear pathway for career advancement. A formal job ladder defines the steps that employees should take to advance within the company and achieve the promotions they desire. Additionally, focusing on team building allows companies to foster both individual and team growth. Both forms of nurturing are important for the company's success. It's also a 21st-century core job skill to be able to function well in a team; by coaching employees on how to achieve their personal career goals and maintain their team support, you can provide them with the soft skills they need to prosper at your business.

Worker Support

Today, many companies are struggling to find top-drawer talent. It’s currently a workers’ economy, but even when the dynamic shifts and jobs become more scarce, the best, most skilled employees will always be in demand. Are your strategic goals in place to support and retain yours? 

You can demonstrate support for your employees by offering flexibility when you can. For manufacturers, this might involve more flexible shifts. Today, workers are looking for the benefit of improved work-life balance. When management is able to accommodate employees’ scheduling needs (i.e. offering weekend shifts), workers may feel less inclined to search for a more flexible job elsewhere.

Niche Recruiters

Many manufacturing companies are finding success by working with niche recruiters that specialize in one industry. This specialization allows them to have a command of the talent pool in a given area as well as across the country. Companies' HR teams can work with these recruiters to develop a pipeline of new talent, ensuring that vacancies are filled quickly. 

Incentives and Employee Appreciation

Many workers enjoy incentive programs based on rewards. Rewards programs can foster enthusiasm for the company and certainly promote morale. In addition, companies that demonstrate appreciation for their employees are able to build a more loyal team where collaboration is valued. Negative workplace culture will tempt good employees right out the door. In today’s climate, people are aware that positive workplace cultures exist. They may not settle for remaining in an unhappy or toxic workplace where workers are treated without appreciation or respect. 

Consulting for the Win

Meeting with a workplace development consultant is another strategy that manufacturers may wish to consider. Consultants are already well aware of best practices regarding the development and implementation of workforce plans. Companies can rely on their input while creating a plan that’s tailored to their business needs. An experienced consultant can provide input for every aspect of the workforce development plan, ensuring that companies address every important detail in its creation. 

Impact Washington partners with manufacturing companies from various sectors to identify their strengths and challenges. We help businesses grow their bottom line as well as to develop their workforce for ongoing success. Contact us to learn more about our resources and client services. Consulting with our team will help you strengthen your operation at every level. 

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