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Creating an Effective Workforce Development Plan

Wednesday, June 28, 2023 | Workforce Development

Since industrialization shifted its gears and powered its operations mechanically, manufacturers have had to consider what comes next. What new and improved machinery will enhance production and efficiency while daring to dream, reducing cost? Today, it’s the same as digitization has many operations in flux, attempting to transition from older systems to new, better ones. 

One thing that remains consistent among manufacturing companies is to ensure a competent workforce with the skills needed to perform current processes, adapt quickly to new ones, and provide the company with reliable support. A reliable workforce shouldn't be left to chance. Manufacturers today 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 workforce goals. Find out why a workforce development strategy is necessary for manufacturers and how to create a robust plan. 

The Importance of Strong Workforce Development Plans

First, we need to identify the top 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 essential for companies that want to recruit and retain top talent in an increasingly competitive manufacturing marketplace. 

Creating a Successful Workforce Development Plan

A solid 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 comprise the framework for company development plans and opportunities. 

Identify Your Objectives

A strong workforce development plan should align with company objectives and 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 strategic workforce objectives. 


Initiating a training regimen is often paramount to a manufacturing workforce development plan, but pitfalls exist. For instance, training can sometimes be redundant. Do you have a mechanism 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 tailored to your particular workforce needs. 

Employee Development

In-house training programs are ideal for transferring knowledge from veteran employees 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 your team members. Learning the ins and outs of new equipment and techniques will help your company 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 business 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 employees should take to advance within the company and achieve their desired promotions. Additionally, focusing on team building allows companies to foster individual and team growth. Both forms of nurturing are essential for company success. Functioning well as a team is a 21st-century core job skill. By coaching employees to achieve their personal career goals and maintain 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 talent. When the dynamic shifts and jobs become abundant in a workers' economy, 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 can accommodate employee 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 successfully work with niche recruiters specializing in one industry. This specialization allows them to have a command of the talent pool in a given area and across the country. HR teams can work with these recruiters to develop a pipeline of new talent, ensuring that vacancies fill quickly. 

Incentives and Employee Appreciation

Many workers enjoy incentive programs based on rewards. Rewards programs can foster enthusiasm for the company and promote morale. In addition, companies that demonstrate appreciation for their employees can build a more loyal team where collaboration is valued. A 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 aren't treated with appreciation or respect. 

Consulting for the Win

Meeting with a workplace development consultant is another strategy that manufacturers should 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 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 and 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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