Two maintenance engineers men and women inspect relay protection system

Manufacturing is a tough industry. Not only are there high demands in quality and quantity, but there are also challenges in retaining talent.

Manufacturing is one of the top four industries hit hard by turnover. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, manufacturing had a 44.3 percent turnover rate in 2020. When comparing the separation rates from 2016 to 2020, manufacturing turnover rates consistently increased year after year, rising from 27.2 percent to 44.3 percent.

Manufacturing companies can lose millions of dollars in the costs of turnover:

  • Hiring and training new hires
  • Decreased productivity
  • Customer dissatisfaction
  • Loss of knowledge due to losing key personnel

As a team leader, it’s essential to stay aware of the situation and learn how to reduce employee turnover in manufacturing by enhancing the employee experience and encouraging your team members to stick around for the long haul.

What Are the Main Factors that Affect Turnover in Manufacturing?

Let’s discuss some of the main factors affecting manufacturing turnover to understand why people are leaving the industry.

Lack of Training and Development Opportunities

The manufacturing industry is losing talent primarily due to a lack of workforce development.

By 2028, it’s estimated that 4.6 million manufacturing roles will open up, yet only 2.2 million of those roles will be filled. As Baby Boomers leave the workforce, there is a lack of individuals with the right skills to fulfill those vacant roles.

Moreover, as technology in the manufacturing space becomes more sophisticated, the shortage of training opportunities for these advancements is becoming problematic; 84 percent of manufacturing executives believe there is a talent shortage in the U.S. This lack of training creates uncertainty for team members, forcing them to look elsewhere for more viable opportunities.


With a skills shortage, manufacturing teams are scrambling to fill vacancies, and teams are working overtime to compensate for the lack of help. This causes burnout, and this exhaustion creates safety concerns.

Manufacturing roles include physically demanding tasks and carry a fair amount of risk—over 13 million members of this workforce are at risk for fatal and nonfatal injuries.

Lack of Appreciation

A lack of employee appreciation was cited as one of the top reasons manufacturing team members left their companies. Employees need much more of the following to stay motivated to remain in the industry:

  • Respect towards floor and production workforce members
  • Attention paid to issues raised by team members
  • Invitations for team members to offer input on issues

Two maintenance engineers men and women inspect relay protection system in plant

How Can Manufacturing Leaders Help Reduce Turnover in Their Industry?

Low retention rates can produce a lot of stress for supervisors and team members. Filling vacancies and training new team members requires significant time and effort. In an already physically demanding job such as manufacturing, overwork can cause burnout, safety risks, and resentment.

Therefore, it’s imperative to look after your team members’ experience and wellbeing by initiating effective retention plans. Here are some strategies to get you started. We’ve broken them down into short- and long-term strategies.

Short-Term Strategies

Here are some of the simpler, shorter-term strategies you can incorporate into your team’s day-to-day routine:

1. Provide Regular Recognition

The U.S. Department of Labor reports the number-one reason individuals leave their job is because they do not feel appreciated. There are some simple things you can do to overcome this deficit:

Recognize and highlight good work: Whether a team member has carefully mapped out an efficient way to sort incoming packages or has taken time out of their busy schedule to train newer staff on safety guidelines, be sure to recognize people. You can highlight their achievements during company or team meetings or write them a thank-you note if your team member prefers something more subtle.

Offer a reward system: Provide incentives such as bonuses or additional time off when team members achieve specific milestones. For example, if they completed a voluntary training program that embodies one of your company’s core values, offer them a reward. Rewards can drive motivation. As only 25 percent of manufacturing workers are engaged at work (eight percent lower than the national average), incentivizing team members can address this disparity.

2. Keep Team Members Connected to the Organization

It’s important that team members feel and see that they are contributing to the organization’s goals.

Update team members on company goals and needs. If there are any challenges the company is facing, ask your team for their input. This can fuel a bottom-up communication culture that allows everyone to be part of the decision-making process.

Establish clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Each team member should understand what their role encompasses, how their role ties into the company’s goals, and why their role is critical to the success of the team and business.

3. Offer Efficient Workstations

Manufacturing roles are physically demanding. People work long hours and must keep track of various moving parts to ensure consistent output. As health and safety should be a top priority for your team, identify ways to provide safer and more ergonomic methods for daily operations.

For example, having mobile-powered workstations can help reduce the need for walking to and from a computer (and help staff complete tasks more quickly). Height-adjustable features can give your team the flexibility to sit or stand, and anti-fatigue floor mats can reduce physical strain.

Long-Term Strategy

Talent development is critical to sustainable business growth and success, but there is an evident lack of professional development in manufacturing. Opportunities for training and growth are a must across all teams.

If done right, your training and development program can mitigate the skills shortage and burnout frequently reported among manufacturing teams.

Offer a Robust Training and Development Program

Providing an ongoing, long-term training and development program can help decrease the skills gap that plagues the industry. However, establishing a viable program will take time; discovering strategies that align with the unique needs of your team will require ongoing trial and error.

Initiate better training and development programs in your team by using the following strategies:

Have regular 1:1 discussions with team members: Growth means different things to different people. Therefore, it’s important to have one-on-one discussions with your team members to learn what success looks like for them and what they would like to achieve in their roles. These discussions aim to identify ways to offer the right educational and developmental opportunities for individual team members.

Provide opportunities for cross-training: Giving your workforce members the chance to step outside of their comfort zone is a great way to foster engagement and, more importantly, give them the chance to explore various roles offered at the organization. Using the data you gathered from your 1:1, pair each team member with a person in a different role to help them with their career development.

Offer mentorship opportunities: You can take your cross-training opportunities a step further by engaging your seasoned team members in a mentorship opportunity. Pair them with less-experienced team members who are ripe for training. This system can help maintain knowledge within the company that’s required to keep processes running smoothly if someone leaves your team. Additionally, by upskilling junior employees, you can offer promotion opportunities that keep them engaged and satisfied.

Collaborate with other supervisors and managers: Some team members may be interested in roles outside of your team. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to collaborate with other supervisors and managers to find ways to bridge your teams or establish additional career paths.

Hone Your Leadership Skills with CMOE

It all begins with you. As a supervisor, it’s vital to be equipped with the right skills and expertise to carry out the strategies above. Therefore, we encourage you to dive into CMOE’s supervisory training programs. Our supervisor-development offerings are also available in a digital self-directed format to meet the needs of busy leaders.

Our supervisor-development programs help supervisors gain the proper skills and interpersonal tools to foster authentic connections with team members and boost team morale. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact our team.

Recommended For You:

Professional Development Programs for Employees

Learn More
About the Author
CMOE’s Design Team is comprised of individuals with diverse and complementary strengths, talents, education, and experience who have come together to bring a unique service to CMOE’s clients. Our team has a rich depth of knowledge, holding advanced degrees in areas such as business management, psychology, communication, human resource management, organizational development, and sociology.

Get Exclusive Content Delivered Straight to Your Inbox

When you subscribe to our blog and become a CMOE Insider.

And the best part?

It's 100% free.