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7 HR strategies for British manufacturers in 2024

The importance of HR in manufacturing is integral – addressing critical aspects such as manning and workforce organisation, managing absences and disciplinaries, and fostering a positive culture while navigating industrial relations. HR strategies have become the backbone of successful manufacturing businesses.

But with rapid technological advancements, shifting employee expectations and the ever-changing dynamics of the global economy, how can British manufacturers stay ahead of the game in 2024? Here are 7 HR strategies to help you thrive in the manufacturing industry.

1. Building a skilled manufacturing workforce in the UK

The British manufacturing sector is currently facing a significant skills shortage, with 57% of manufacturing companies citing difficulty in accessing a skilled workforce. 55% are experiencing shortages in advanced manufacturing skills and even more (61%) in traditional manufacturing skills, such as fabrication, welding and mechanical engineering.

Addressing skills shortages through apprenticeships

One effective strategy to bridge the skills gap is by investing in apprenticeships. Apprenticeships offer a pathway to developing a highly skilled workforce, integrating theoretical learning with practical application. With a worrying 83% of young individuals perceiving barriers to entering manufacturing careers, it’s clear that awareness and accessibility are key. Apprenticeship programs can serve as essential pathways, exposing youths to the sector and upskilling existing staff, effectively mitigating the skill gap.

Attracting and retaining EU/international skilled workers

Post-Brexit immigration policies have tightened the talent pool. Combined with the lack of awareness of manufacturing careers among younger people and an ageing workforce, the pool has become shallower and more competitive.

To address this issue, manufacturers must actively seek skilled workers beyond traditional recruitment methods. This can be done through partnerships with overseas training providers, attending international recruitment job fairs and creating targeted online recruitment campaigns. 

To help understand which roles you can focus your international recruitment initiatives, the revision of the Highly Skilled Worker Visa route and the expansion of the Shortage Occupation List, which now includes roles like production managers and engineers, are steps in the right direction.

2. Ensuring health and safety compliance in UK factories

The manufacturing environment presents unique risks, making health and safety a paramount concern. Therefore, adherence to the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) is essential.

But ensuring compliance goes beyond one-time training. It requires establishing a robust safety culture, promoting proactive practices, and encouraging open communication between workers and management.

Integrate your health and safety data with your people data to gain a comprehensive view of the risks and incidents within your organisation. This information can then be used to identify trends, target areas for improvement and mitigate future risks. For instance, linking accident reporting with shift patterns, team dynamics, or training records can help identify root causes and develop tailored solutions to prevent future workplace risks from occurring.

It’s also crucial to have a system that checks staff compliance before scheduling staff into shifts. elementsuite’s workforce management module, for instance, prevents scheduling staff whose qualifications and certifications may have expired, and alerts employees and managers when and where updates are required.

3. Strategic workforce planning for UK manufacturers

Forecasting staffing needs amid fluctuating production demands requires meticulous planning. Factors such as production volume, workforce availability, and operational constraints must be considered to align human resources with manufacturing goals efficiently.

Having a crystal ball to understand what resources you will need in the coming months or even years is impossible. 

It is here that integrating production and workforce planning tools can provide valuable insights into staffing adjustments. You can better understand how differing scenarios, such as EPOS, may impact your workforce requirements. You can also identify potential skills gaps and develop training plans to mitigate them.

4. Creating an engaging environment for workers

Engagement in the workplace is critical for retaining talent and maintaining high productivity levels. But how do we engage employees in a sector fraught with manual labour and often monotonous tasks?

Flexible working arrangement like job shares/compressed hours

Offering flexible working arrangements such as shift swapping across multiple sites or compressed hours can be a powerful engagement tool for manufacturers, and empowering employees to set availability in advances managers can consider out-of-work commitments during rota-ing can make a world of a difference.

Job-sharing or compressed hours enable staff to rotate between roles without compromising manufacturing operations, minimising burnout and promoting a diverse work culture. They also cater to individual preferences, allowing employees to work around their schedules. 

Learn more about how timber, building and fencing supplies merchant Lawsons uses elementsuite to enhance workforce planning

5. Promoting diversity and inclusion in British manufacturing

Despite the progress in many sectors, manufacturing still faces significant diversity challenges. Research shows that only a mere 26% of the UK manufacturing workforce is female, and 13% is from ethnic minority groups.

Implementing specific diversity initiatives, particularly in factory and leadership roles, is vital for addressing this imbalance. As we want to be attracting younger workers into the manufacturing industry, manufacturers must also address gender and ethnic pay gaps to attract and retain diverse talent.

But do you know your diversity metrics? Are you promoting opportunities for underrepresented groups in your organisation?

By reviewing data on recruitment, retention, and progression rates among different demographics through their HR software, employers can identify potential biases or barriers to diversity and take action accordingly. This can include targeted recruitment strategies, diversity training programs, and inclusive workplace policies and practices. 

6. Employee development for the future of UK manufacturing

As the manufacturing industry evolves, so must its workforce. As mentioned earlier, the younger generation is unaware of the potential and opportunities in manufacturing. Therefore, investing in employee development and upskilling current staff is crucial for filling skill gaps and preparing the workforce for future technological advancements.

Developing leadership capabilities for supervisors/managers

Developing leadership capabilities in supervisors and managers is not just about empowering individuals – it’s about transforming the entire workplace. By enhancing these key roles, we cultivate an environment where teams are more engaged, productive, and resilient.

HR’s expertise in employee training and development is critical in this process, offering targeted programs designed to enhance leadership skills at every level.

Upskilling for new manufacturing technologies and processes

Similarly, with the speed of technological advancements in the manufacturing industry comes the need for upskilling and reskilling their workforce to meet future demands.

For instance, incorporating predictive maintenance technology and basic equipment maintenance processes training can significantly reduce stoppages and eliminate extended shutdown periods, ensuring smoother production flows. This strategic approach to upskilling not only future-proofs the workforce against technological advancements but also positions the company as a forward-thinking leader in the manufacturing sector.

7. Leveraging HR tech and analytics

The future is tech. We use it to enhance our production and processes, and if we want to improve our HR strategy, we need to embrace technology.

Adopting a specialised HR software tailored to the manufacturing industry, such as elementsuite, brings a multitude of benefits, transforming how businesses operate and communicate. It isn’t just a tool; it’s a catalyst that streamlines employee communication, making it more efficient and effective. 

The bespoke benefits tailored to individual needs set elementsuite apart, ensuring each employee feels valued and understood. Plus, the ability to self-integrate with other tools, such as your project management software and accounting systems, means that elementsuite doesn’t work in isolation but rather enhances the ecosystem of business operations. This integration with other tools facilitates seamless workflows and decision-making processes, making elementsuite a game-changer for manufacturers looking to modernise their approach to HR management. 

With elementsuite, manufacturing organisations can elevate processes with an HR and Workforce Management platform tailored to suit the manufacturing world: Stay connected and streamline operations across multiple manufacturing facilities. Carry out essential background checks, ID verifications, and right to work screenings efficiently to ensure a compliant and skilled workforce on the factory floor. Your team will also appreciate the ease of access as they can now view, update, and manage their own world of work through self-service capabilities.

Want to learn more? Check out our Manufacturing page here or Book a demo with us today and discover how elementsuite can revolutionise your HR strategy for the better. 

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