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Originally appeared on the SDI Clarity Blog, authored by Jeremy Erard. SDI Clarity is a a professional services firm specializing in innovation in the areas of Strategy, Demand Generation, Learning, Talent Development, and Organizational Change. You can learn more about their products and services here.

The last 15 years have undoubtedly been some of the most challenging times in the history of the US economy. The dramatic economic swings have heavily impacted virtually every business sector, especially manufacturing.

The recent drastic rebound in our economy, and the manufacturing sector specifically, is undoubtedly a result of many factors including innovations in products, processes, and manufacturing technologies. Unfortunately, the recent surge has now led to a somewhat unforeseen and challenging problem…a shortage of capable people to get the work done and a looming manufacturing talent battle.

According to the October report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate was reported at 5.8% nationally. With a drastically diminished pool of potential manufacturing talent candidates, it makes hiring and retaining quality people for manufacturing roles challenging. Even more daunting is the task of quickly developing these new hires into efficient and productive members of the organization.

Training and developing people in manufacturing roles has traditionally presented unique challenges, particularly in how training is structured and experienced.  As manufacturing organizations face the challenge of training and developing new hires, it is important to use the same innovative thinking that resulted in the new products, processes, and manufacturing technologies that led to their growth.

Here are some things to consider as you prepare to compete for hiring great manufacturing talent:

  1. Has your training program evolved with your business?  To be successful you have likely adapted to the changing needs of your customers and markets.  Along with those changes. it is likely that the performance and needs of your employees will  need to evolve as well.  Determine if your current training program supports the current needs of your employees and business. A great reputation of proper training and continuing education is seen as a great benefit to the pool of manufacturing talent looking for jobs.
  2. You are likely using more technology than ever in your manufacturing processes… Are you using it in your training process?  Technology has drastically increased efficiency and quality in how we make things, but it has also created the ability to access valuable information when and where it is needed.  Supervisors are increasingly busy, and printed manuals and documents are challenging to keep updated.  Using mobile devices like tablets and phones increases quality by giving everyone access to the right information when it is needed most.
  3. If a picture is worth 1,000 words, what is a video worth?  Traditionally, on the job training has been a combination of people explaining tasks to a new hire and work instructions that may or may not contain images.  Technology and mobile devices can provide employees with instructional videos that allow them to both see and hear how an important task is done without requiring a supervisor to be available at key times.  This can increase efficiency and eliminate quality issues.

By evolving how manufacturing organizations train and develop employees, you can ensure that new manufacturing talent`1 entering the organization will be able to contribute more quickly, positively impacting efficiency and quality.  When employees feel prepared and positive about their work, they are much more likely to not only stay, but also endorse how great the organization is to other quality people.  Ultimately, this will help your organization consistently win the talent battle.