A Strategic Reset: Survey by The Workforce Institute at UKG Inspires Modern Strategies to Recruit and Engage Skilled Manufacturing Talent

September 23, 2020, LOWELL, Mass.

Leading up to Manufacturing Day – better known as “MFG Day” — on Friday, Oct. 2, Kronos Incorporated  joins thousands of organizations around the world in celebrating essential workers in manufacturing and illuminating the industry’s substantial impact in 2020. As part of this initiative, Kronos — which will become UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group) on Oct. 1 following its merger with Ultimate Software — today released a study commissioned by The Workforce Institute at UKG revealing pre-pandemic insights, recruitment strategies, and initiatives from hiring managers at U.S. manufacturing organizations1 that could help close the talent gap.

Close the Talent Gap: Pre-pandemic Insights Inform Future Workforce Strategies in Manufacturing” serves as a reminder that the industry’s most persistent challenge — its skilled-labor shortage — still requires ardent attention. Survey results show that many pre-pandemic workforce trends can inform dynamic strategies to engage valued employees and attract skilled talent from a much deeper pool of workers who might not have previously considered a career in manufacturing.  

News Facts

  • Get inspired by MFG Day: Engaging the next-generation workforce is as important as ever.
    • Pre-pandemic, 2 in 5 manufacturers were experiencing higher-than-average turnover (44%), a notable spike in retirements (40%), and feeling the financial burden of paying overtime to compensate for vacant positions (39%).
    • Despite best intentions to fill open jobs, nearly 2 in 3 manufacturers (62%) had difficulty recruiting skilled workers, reinforcing the seriousness of the talent gap.
    • While nearly half of manufacturers (47%) agree negative industry perceptions have impacted their ability to recruit Millennial and Gen Z talent, few have tackled the problem head-on:
      • Only 1 in 3 (30%) have collaborated with local schools or colleges to develop programs that teach technical skills needed for a career in manufacturing;
      • One in 4 (23%) have worked directly with students and parents to illuminate exciting opportunities in modern manufacturing; and
      • Just 14% have participated in a local MFG Day initiative within the past three years.
  • Examining workforce trends from a pre-pandemic era inspires four future-oriented strategies to close the manufacturing talent gap.
    • Maximize the workforce: Workforce development and knowledge transfer initiatives were top of mind for hiring managers, as 3 in 5 organizations took steps to upskill (65%) and cross-train (58%) employees, while 1 in 4 offered apprenticeships (28%) or mentorships (26%).
    • Embrace alternative talent: When unemployment was at its lowest, 4 in 5 organizations (81%) said they still managed to add skilled labor to the workforce by diversifying their candidate pool. Veterans were actively recruited by nearly three-quarters of manufacturers (73%), while other hiring managers sought out individuals with non-traditional skills or work histories (66%), second-chance workers (64%), individuals returning to the workforce (64%), gig workers (62%), refugees (56%), persons with disabilities (54%), and retirees (54%).
    • Engage with analytics: According to survey respondents, people managers at their organization were using human capital management (HCM) software to measure employee potential (36%), assess productivity losses based on absenteeism (28%), pin-point root causes of employee turnover (28%), forecast skills gaps (27%), and assess flight risk (13%).
    • Invest in the employee experience: Around 4 in 5 manufacturing organizations (81%) believe the workforce is a core component to achieving success in their digital transformation, and 9 in 10 (91%) understand investing in company culture can attract qualified candidates and retain valued employees – in fact, 87% were actively working to enhance their culture as of March 2020.
  • As a multi-year Silver sponsor of MFG Day – an initiative of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and of The Manufacturing Institute held annually on the first Friday in October – Kronos remains committed to helping manufacturers digitally transform workforce operations to address critical talent gaps and engage the next generation of makers, creators, and innovators.
    • Partnering with Women in Manufacturing (WiM) to present actionable strategies for empowering and engaging hourly workers in manufacturing, Kronos will speak at both the 10th annual WiM SUMMIT on Sept. 29 and EMPOWER 2020, a digital conference hosted by the WiM Massachusetts chapter, on Oct. 19.

Supporting Quotes

  • Kylene Zenk, director, manufacturing practice, UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group)
    “Although manufacturing leaders have had to redirect attention over the past six months to important initiatives like workplace safety, business continuity, and COVID-19 contact tracing, the industry’s talent problem hasn’t subsided. Half of the organizations we surveyed just before the pandemic hit the U.S. said they were having trouble retaining skilled talent, and 3 in 5 were grappling with recruitment. MFG Day continues to be an important industry effort, imploring manufacturers to focus on adopting new strategies for developing and attracting skilled talent while also optimizing the talent they do have as together the industry navigates uncertainty and prepares for the future of work.”

Supporting Resources

About The Workforce Institute at UKG (Ultimate Kronos Group)

The Workforce Institute provides research and education on critical workplace issues facing organizations around the globe. By bringing together thought leaders, The Workforce Institute is uniquely positioned to empower organizations with the knowledge and information they need to manage their workforces effectively and provide a voice for employees on important workplace issues. A hallmark of The Workforce Institute's research is balancing the needs and desires of diverse employee populations with the needs of organizations. For additional information, visit www.workforceinstitute.org.

About Kronos Incorporated

Kronos is a leading provider of workforce management and human capital management cloud solutions. Kronos industry-centric workforce applications are purpose-built for businesses, healthcare providers, educational institutions, and government agencies of all sizes. Tens of thousands of organizations — including half of the Fortune 1000®  — and more than 40 million people in over 100 countries use Kronos every day. Kronos merged with Ultimate Software on April 1, 2020, to create one of the world’s most innovative HCM and workforce management companies. Visit www.kronos.com. Kronos: Workforce Innovation That Works.

About Ultimate Software

Ultimate Software is a leading global provider of cloud human capital management (HCM) and employee experience solutions, with more than 51 million people records in the cloud. Ultimate’s award-winning UltiPro delivers HR, payroll, talent, and time and labor management, as well as HR service delivery solutions. Founded in 1990, Ultimate is headquartered in Weston, Florida, and employs more than 6,000 professionals. To learn more, visit www.ultimatesoftware.com. Ultimate Software: People First. Beginning on October 1, 2020, Kronos and Ultimate together will be known as UKG.


Footnote 1: Survey Methodology – This survey was commissioned by The Workforce Institute at UKG and conducted online by Qualtrics from March 11-17, 2020, among a pool of 313 full-time hiring managers and others involved in hiring decisions at manufacturing organizations based in the U.S. or multinational companies with a strong U.S. presence. The survey predominantly asked questions pertaining to the 12-month period prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, March 2019 through March 2020. For questions about the survey methodology, please contact [email protected].

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