Achieving Workforce Agility in Manufacturing – The Time is Now


Through times of incredible change and uncertainty, there are winners and losers. Those who can adjust to change and even thrive during uncertainty, end up taking market share and driving profitability –capitalizing on destabilizing events. Winning requires agility. Workforce agility comes from an appropriate balance of access to the right information and decision-making authority for employees, which results in higher performance. 

Creating an agile workforce does not happen overnight, it is an ongoing process and requires continuous improvement. Recognizing where your organization currently is and where it strives to be is the first step towards progress. Giving employees the information they need and the decision rights they deserve, will unlock the performance of your people and organization.

Ankura and Workforce Insight collaborated to develop a survey based on the principles of access and enablement, resulting in a maturity score for participants. The higher the score, the more agile the organization. The results of the Manufacturing Workforce Agility Survey clearly show the manufacturing sector has not been a leader in the field of agility.


In fact, manufacturing scored last in agility out of all industries that participated. This result is not because manufacturing is stagnant, instead, it highlights that people performance has not been a high priority. Technology and automation for production and supply chain have consumed budget allocations, leaving less to develop human capital. The last year has shown us that this needs to change, as manufacturers learned very quickly why agility is so important.

The Urgency for Achieving Agility in Manufacturing

The COVID-19 pandemic had a severe impact on manufacturing, testing strategies for warehouse consolidation under conditions when in many cases, the supply chain was not capable of delivering products to satisfy panic buying. 

As consumers created a new network of personal warehouse space – their basements or storage closets – a massive disruption for manufacturers ensued. Shelves quickly emptied of essential items causing a ramp-up in production without the infrastructure to support it. Customers were not consuming the products they were buying but storing them in their homes, therefore creating a new type of “consumer” warehousing in the supply chain. This led to a sharp decline in demand causing a dramatic ramp down in production as concerns over supply eased. 

These shockwaves in demand had a tremendous impact on the workforce. The amount of overtime worked during the pandemic was unsustainable, and fear of reduced hours below the traditional 40 is now a real fear as consumer demand continues to flex dramatically. This type of whiplash is especially painful for manufacturers who have not created agile labor strategies and systems to handle such fluctuations.

Looking back, the agility score of the manufacturing industry shows there is opportunity for improvement, and companies should be addressing that now to help future proof their businesses.

The Manufacturing Workforce Agility Survey provides further insights to better understand where weaknesses exist that limit agility, the implications it has on people performance, and to identify those opportunities for improvement.

Empowerment – A Key Driver to Success

One very clear finding was that manufacturing employees feel like they have a culture of empowerment. However, they are less positive about their ability to get the information they need to perform. 

When reviewing the most positive survey responses, the differences became even more clear. A culture of enablement was the highest scoring category as compared to access and consumable data, which was the lowest scoring. What does this mean?

Talking to employees about empowerment and making them feel enabled is much easier than actually equipping them with the tools and information they need to make changes effectively. Without intentional efforts to provide employees with access to information, manufacturing companies will continue to lack workforce agility. How can manufacturers equip their people with the tools they need? Technology. 

The Impact of Modern Digital Platforms

The newest platforms that enable workforce performance are driven by cloud architecture, artificial intelligence, and leverage mobile to push information to employees through multiple channels.

These technologies make a significant impact on workforce culture, enabling employees to check vacation balances, swap shifts, make themselves available for overtime, and communicate with managers in real-time. This gives them more freedom and flexibility while helping their organizations to become more effective and agile with labor management. Management teams can leverage these new platforms to access the data they need to understand performance, make staffing adjustments before the shift is over, and move employees to fill open slots based on skill, proficiency, and availability.

Looking Ahead

There is no better time to assess past performance and develop the right labor strategies to prepare for the future. Workforce agility can transform performance by leveraging the most powerful resource in an organization – it’s people, but manufactures must utilize the newest platform technologies available to achieve this. The balance between access and enablement is the key to agility and finding that balance means unlocking the power of your people.

To learn more about achieving workforce agility in manufacturing, read the complete Manufacturing Workforce Agility Survey Report, and listen to our latest webinar, Workforce Agility in Manufacturing: A Crucial Measurement for Organizational Success.


About Ankura: Ankura is an expert services firm defined by HOW we solve challenges. Whether a client is facing an immediate business challenge, trying to increase the value of their company or protect against future risks, Ankura designs, develops, and executes tailored solutions by assembling the right combination of expertise. We build on this experience with every case, client, and situation, collaborating to create innovative, customized solutions, and strategies designed for today’s ever-changing business environment. This gives our clients unparalleled insight and experience across a wide range of economic, governance, and regulatory challenges. At Ankura, we know that collaboration drives results.