Can UK Manufacturers Create Engaged And Effective Workforces? And Does It Affect Competitiveness?

Manufacturing_3Kronos recently sponsored the Manufacturer Directors Forum debate held by The Manufacturer Magazine. The main topic under discussion was ‘How can UK manufacturers create engaged and effective workforces – and does this matter to their competitiveness?’

Guests came from a range of manufacturing sectors, including defence, heavy industry, automation equipment and electronics, and ranged from SMEs to large organisations. Their diversity brought different interpretations of the latest buzz word in ‘workforce management engagement’.

Pierfrancesco Maneti, EMEA head of the industrial research operation, IDC Manufacturing Insights, presented findings from a recent survey of manufacturing leaders across 11 countries which indicated: “Competitive European manufacturing is becoming less about definable measurements and more about ‘undefineable’ measurements. Less about labour, for instance, and more about informed workers and decision makers.” This view was refined by Hozelock’s Simon Noakes and Ronnie Hamilton of Axel Wireless who both agreed that one of their biggest issues is finding reliable semi-skilled and unskilled workers who are comfortable with a metrics driven environment, notably 70% of Hozelock’s seasonal staffing is taken up by Eastern European workers who seem much more willing to work in this kind of environment.

These observations led to discussion of cross sector competition for the highly transferable abilities of lower skilled workers and to the image of manufacturing operative-type jobs compared to call centre or supermarket work.

With the Manufacturing industry seen as a rigid, clock-in clock-out work environment it was suggested that better uptake of user-friendly workplace management technology and communication of best practice flexible labour strategies, could help manufacturers attract appropriate workers at all levels more easily. It was agreed that a more flexible sector profile would help address gender imbalance in particular.

The discussion then turned to the influence of pay on the ability of manufacturers to recruit the people they needed, regional and sector differences were observed and while some dismissed pay as a “short term motivator,” others insisted that pay is the starting point when it comes to recruitment in a competitive market.

John Kavanagh from JCB shared how keeping the salaries of technician level jobs at one of their plants above those of a local skills competitor was helpful in attracting recruits. Brian Corless, managing director of Caparo Forging, was keen to point out that manufacturers shouldn’t rely on recruitment strategies at the expense of retention, but should consider the employers influences on the ability of companies to retain and develop talent once it is secured. He maintained that it was the way employers manage and interact with people that becomes the main factor when it comes to employee retention and employers should always be mindful of this.

You can read the full article published by the Manufacturer Magazine and I would welcome your views on this topic.

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