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The Importance of Workforce Development: How You Can Retain Your Workforce by Upskilling

Thursday, September 15, 2022 | Growth and Innovation, Operational Excellence

In recent years, many manufacturers have found it difficult to recruit and retain workers. Retaining employees is imperative to having a well-rounded workforce. Automation is quickly making many jobs obsolete, which can bring complications, but also opportunities. To make sure your manufacturing company has workers who can continually adapt to new industry changes, it's important to invest time and resources into workforce development. Recruiting and hiring new people isn’t always a viable option if you already have staff whose jobs are slowly becoming unnecessary with recent innovations. Workforce development and “upskilling” are important steps to ensure your employees have the skills needed to create a well-rounded staff that can provide services technology can’t. 

The problem too many manufacturers face

Many jobs currently occupied by employees can be done with automation. Automation can take care of mundane and repetitive work, meaning your employees can focus on more intellectual tasks. However, many employees aren’t trained to take over these other areas. Recruiting new workers isn’t always possible between budgets, the difficulty of hiring, and the number of employees you already have. Upskilling (or reskilling) your existing workforce can take care of this area and help retain your workers.

What is upskilling and how can I apply it? 

Upskilling is a business strategy that takes the skills of current employees and advances them to keep up with industry changes. It’s generally used to fill in gaps in the workforce. Upskilling optimizes employee performance and takes advantage of technology. Upskilling or reskilling is less expensive than hiring new employees and will significantly increase your company’s competitiveness. Reskilling employees is a taxing but worthwhile business investment. You should look at it as an investment that will soon yield benefits and ultimately save you money. Not only that, it will help retain the workforce you have, increase employee morale, and reduce employee turnover.

Reskilling your workforce is a big step and requires a significant change in many ways. Knowing your workers’ strengths and weaknesses is essential when it comes to employee training and development. Your workforce may not currently have the skills to keep up with the changing workforce, but, if delegated properly, they most definitely could. Assessing the strengths and weaknesses of your staff will help direct your employee’s career pathways, and ultimately create a productive and efficient workforce. 

If your company doesn't currently have the funds or resources to successfully implement retraining and development programs, it may be necessary to recruit a third party to help get started. Impact Washington, Washington's local MEP, is a nonprofit organization that helps small to medium-sized manufacturers excel in every facet of business. Their many training and development courses help local manufacturers implement worthwhile business practices that increase their competitiveness. Recruiting a local MEP can provide the resources needed for successful workforce development. 

Upskilling benefits: 

Employee Retention

Investing in your workforce not only develops your workers' skills but also helps cultivate a collaborative mentality among employees. Encouraging employees and committing to their growth and advancement within the company shows you care about them and are dedicated to their success. Possible career advancement, recognition, support, and good company culture are becoming high-level concerns to workers. Providing your current workforce with the tools they need to succeed and supporting their career advancement throughout the process will ensure your company is a place people want to work at. 

Upskilling also gives your company a unique opportunity to build a collaborative team. It’s beneficial to develop your employees’ skills. Still, it’s important to create a working environment where workers can lean on one another to work efficiently, problem solve and adapt to unique changes. Good company culture is something many people look for in a business. Developing this area will help retain the workers you already have, increase your company’s overall productivity, and also make your company more appealing to new hires. While upskilling is all about using the workforce you already have, it can also benefit manufacturers when it's time to hire new people. 

Increases competitiveness

There’s no doubt upskilling your workforce will put your company in an overall better place. Upskilling, though it may use time and resources, only increases your company’s competitiveness. Advancing your workers’ skills means your business will be able to handle more projects and take advantage of more opportunities. Your company will be able to keep up with the changing world of technology and use innovation to your advantage.

Likewise, upskilling allows you to handle more issues and deal with them promptly because you have the resources and capability to do so. This will increase your workplace efficiency and help processes move along swiftly. Managers will be able to depend on their workers and, in turn, will be able to direct their focus to specific tasks that benefit the company all the more.

Healthy Pet is part of the J. Rettenmaier & Söhne Group (JRS), a global leader in natural fiber processing used in pet care, life sciences, and a variety of technical applications. An employee of theirs attended one of Impact Washington’s Toyota Kata events and recommended the program to management. Healthy Pet partnered with Impact Washington to directly train employees about the concept of lean manufacturing so that Healthy Pet could then successfully implement lean principles into their day-to-day management and tasks. Their goal was to ensure all their employees were well equipped for the new operations that would be coming. 

Impact Washington reskilled their employees using their Lean 101 training program and used a Value Stream Mapping assessment to highlight areas of improvement in their operational production systems. As a result, Healthy Pet had an increased number of jobs (10 positions), throughput improvements of 15.4%, more efficient employees, and increased employee morale. Impact Washington also implemented a Tableau software system, which produced a decrease in lead time for the Supply Chain Department. The introduction of Tableau also saved plant managers up to four hours a day by not having to manually input information. 

Healthy Pet, like many other manufacturers, sought to reduce costs and stay competitive. By prioritizing workforce development first, they were able to do just that. Impact Washington’s Lean 101 training equipped their workers for the changes ahead. This resulted in a smooth transition, reduced costs, and increased efficiency. Read the full success story here

Workforce development and reskilling take time and effort but will benefit your manufacturing workforce in more ways than one. Investing in your current workforce will increase productivity, efficiency, proficiency, and collaboration. It also helps your workers be more effective when it comes to problem-solving and keeping up with the ever-changing industry. If you’re not sure where to start, contact Impact Washington today.

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