4 Common HR Challenges in Manufacturing & How to Solve Them

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As an HR manager in the manufacturing industry, there’s no shortage of challenges you need to face.

From training & recruiting quality employees to addressing injuries and overcoming the “boring” company image, these challenging workplace issues affect your company’s culture and bottom line.

With past experience working as a transformation consultant with various manufacturers, our COO Max Trudel shares his best insights to help you solve these common challenges in the workplace:

1. Retraining Your Employees to Match Your Company’s Needs

With the labour shortage in full swing, managers must rely on multidisciplinary workers who can accomplish various tasks.

Relying on the common practice of having your best and most senior employees train the latest hires only works if they don’t lose too many hours from it. Finding the right balance is key. 

Taking a closer look at your current workforce and determining how they can be retrained to match your company’s needs is also essential. Nowadays, companies are leveraging the power of technology to make the most of training new and current hires.

A 2021 Deloitte Global Resilience study reveals how 57% of respondents in the manufacturing industry are on board with using technology to redesign, automate and streamline manual job tasks.

Deep Sight, a Montreal-based augmented reality (AR) company offers an immersive and simplified training method to help employees perform high-skill jobs required in manufacturing. With real-time adaptability and visual capabilities, employees learn at their own pace, avoid the risky mishaps from handling large machinery and don’t have to rely on supervisors to train them.

If high technology isn’t your thing, offering classes or skill certifications to your employees can go a long way in upskilling their way into new roles as well. 

2. Dealing With Physical Injuries & Leave

With heavy lifting and operating large machinery, it comes as no surprise that manufacturing has some of the highest injury rates.

Managing leaves from physical injuries can be tricky, especially when an employee’s injury requires more downtime than expected. Not offering them the extra recovery time they need can lead to serious legal implications.

Additionally, an injury stemming from heavy lifting could prevent a worker from coming back to fulfilling their role.  Planning ahead to find a possible replacement or having a backup on another production line to ensure things run smoothly are common scenarios you need to consider.

In situations like these, being mindful of the laws and regulations in your workplace is the first step.

Most importantly: rather than being reactionary to the situation and being close-minded, take the time to be reflective instead.

Doing so ensures you and your employees are on the same page and avoids any non-compliance issues taking place. It’s imperative that you walk through the entire process with your employee to determine whether they can legally return to work, or are required to offer them any job accommodations needed for a new role.

3. Managing Overtime and Reducing Labour Costs

When you have production lines that are running 24/7, you need to structure your scheduling to fit in accordance with the high demand.

Rather than burn out your most highly qualified employees and force them to work double shifts, it’s important to leave room for flexible scheduling and offer better overtime conditions. 

One way is by offering your employees an overtime premium. Voilà! offers you the flexibility to create customizable overtime rules and add a premium that fits in accordance with your company and employees as well. 

Whether it’s for a night or weekend shift, you can add 1 to 1.5X the amount on an employee’s shift. This can include your employees paid vacation in the calculation of overtime hours, which allows you to comply with the various rules and conventions of your company.

As for complex scheduling?

A big part of it stems from keeping up with labour costs all while ensuring production lines run like clockwork. Relying on manual timekeeping or outdated punch clocks to manage payroll can get costly real fast. Human errors are bound to happen which leads to inaccurate time reporting.

Using a time and attendance system can significantly reduce your labour costs by automatically adjusting time entries according to preferences. That way less time is spent manually adjusting time entries, offering you a greater degree of control over labour costs.

4. Creating an Engaging & Recruitment Friendly Workplace Culture

Let’s face it, the first words that come to mind when thinking about manufacturing aren’t always“exciting” or “fun”. Or as Max Trudel, COO of Voilà! states: 

“The conditions are good, the money is good, and more often than not, manufacturing DOES offer a friendly and fun workplace. It just doesn’t always look so from the outside.”

How do you get past the boring label?

By focusing your efforts on creating an engaging and recruitment-friendly workplace.

Here’s how:

1. Boost Employee Engagement by Cultivating a Strong Company Culture

There’s no denying that companies with high employee engagement have lower turnover. One way of boosting employee engagement is by cultivating strong company culture.

This starts with building the foundation: defining and living by the company’s mission, vision, and values.

The biggest mistake most companies make is not walking the talk. Ensuring your company lives in accordance with its values is crucial to cultivating strong company culture.

Hiring the right people that align with your company’s values, treating them well and offering them a voice to address their concerns and room for growth is equally as important.

2. Promote Your Company Culture on Social Media

Gone are the days of relying on classified ads or word of mouth for recruiting candidates.

If you want to attract and engage your future employees (being millennials and Gen Z) you need to be on their radar.

Leverage social media to highlight exciting company updates like an employee achievement, a fun fact about a new team member or share pictures from a recent team get-together.

By branding yourself as a fun place to be, you’ll attract more prospects and break free from the competition and boring stereotypes. 

3. Organize Fun Events

When it comes to organizing fun events, it’s easy to lose sight of the ultimate goal: getting your staff together and ensuring they have a good time. 

To build a solid camaraderie, you need to think of the big picture by focusing on your employees. One way is by asking them what they would like and adapting their likes to your budget.

Small Budget: Get BBQ Friendly

Have a team full of foodies and a small budget?

Setting up barbecues and picnic tables for a quick Friday lunch can be an affordable and easy win. Better yet, having a coach teach your most hands-on employees how to build that table is a great way for them to learn some woodworking skills and collaborate.

Medium-Sized Budget: Enjoy Some Inflatable Fun

If you’re a larger company with a more flexible budget, you can take a page from Max Trudel, Voilà! COO and former employee at leading geotextile company, Solmax International.

His advice? Engage in a friendly competition.

“With all that green space near the plant, we rented inflatables and organized a friendly competition with the team. From riding a mechanical bull, to dressing up as sumo wrestlers, everyone was full of laughs and had a blast! Afterwards, we invited the staff’s family to join in for a nice BBQ.”

Nothing says camaraderie more than sharing laughs with some friendly competition and creating cross-department bonds with staff and their family. 

Large Budget: Go Big or Go Home

If you’re a large organization and have the luxury of a big-budget, now’s the time to shine!

You can take inspiration from insulation leader Fransyl, who rented an entire stadium for their 30th anniversary to hold an entire summer fair for their employees and respected families.

From theme park-inspired rides and food to celebrities taking photos with the staff’s kids, with a larger scale budget, it’s one of many ways you can create an extraordinary experience for your employees and thank them for being part of your success story.

Despite your budget, what matters most is taking the initiative to plan an activity that offers your employees the opportunity to enjoy some fun and create stronger bonds in a social setting they all can enjoy!

Conclusion

Navigating common HR challenges in the manufacturing industry isn’t easy. Applying the actionable tips listed above in place should guide you in the right direction.

What matters most is having your company’s needs align with your employees. This comes down to ensuring your employees are seen and heard, clarifying workplace politics and having a strong company culture that fosters growth.

At the end of the day, treating others the way you want to be treated goes a long way in managing challenges both in and out of the workplace.