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Diversifying the Workforce in the Manufacturing Industry

Manufacturing has a reputation for being a male-dominated industry. This prevents many female employees from applying for manufacturing roles. Younger generations in today’s workforce demand an emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). But they’re not the only ones. 

According to Glassdoor research, 76% of job seekers consider a diverse workforce a priority when applying for jobs. And “32% say they wouldn’t apply to a job at a company where there’s a lack of workforce diversity.”

Less than a third (30%) of today’s manufacturing workers are women, according to a study by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute (MI). As the industry embraces Industry 4.0 and smart factories, it must also take measures to welcome more women and younger generations into its ranks. The future depends on it.

“Manufacturers have to try to become more appealing to younger generations and women. Otherwise, the economic impact of unfilled positions can create productivity losses of up to $2.5 trillion by 2028,” according to Deloitte’s Skills gap in manufacturing study. “The only way to attract that type of workforce is to raise awareness and adopt a less hierarchical structure that enables workers to see why their job responsibilities are essential in the greater chain.”

Changing the face of the industry

Manufacturing organizations are stepping up with initiatives to help change the tide. Half of the respondents to the Deloitte-MI study reported having “a formal program in place to recruit women.” 

Along the same lines, the Manufacturing Institute launched the STEP Women’s Initiative to inspire and empower women in manufacturing through research, recognition and leadership. And the European Institute of Innovation & Technology started a LEADERS competition to encourage female innovators in manufacturing. 

These are moves in the right direction, but more work needs to be done. “Some well-intentioned DEI programs are not fully meeting their intended objectives, with many underrepresented groups in manufacturing seeking additional opportunities for career progression,” the Deloitte-MI study notes. 

Complicating matters, one in four women is considering leaving the industry due to the need for flexible schedules and a lack of work-life balance, according to the Deloitte-MI report. Younger generations view the manufacturing industry as “boring, outdated and not creative,” Copperberg reports. 

Becoming an employer of choice

In a tight job market where every candidate interaction counts, manufacturers need to take swift, intentional steps to attract women and younger generations. Those measures need to include prioritizing diversity, flexibility, work-life balance and the candidate experience.

As stress levels have risen, more emphasis has been put on mental wellness in the workplace. Today’s candidates look for benefits along those lines. Manufacturers need to not only offer these benefits, but also promote them so that they get used, because mentally healthy workers tend to be more productive. 

In addition, more significance needs to be given to flexibility. “Flexibility/adaptability was ranked by manufacturing respondents in the 2021 Deloitte Global Resilience study as the most critical workforce trait for an organization’s future,” the Deloitte-MI study reports. 

Flexibility in manufacturing jobs can be as simple as giving employees a two-hour window in which to start their workday instead of insisting on a universal start time. Another option is to allow employees to swap shifts with other workers, with manager approval of course. Still another option is to allow for short work weeks with longer workdays. 

Improving the candidate experience

Beyond that, measures are needed to overhaul the candidate process. “The top reason by far for a negative candidate experience in the manufacturing industry is a lack of response from the employer or recruiter at 81% — a dramatic increase from 2020 (47%),” reports a Smart Industry article. 

Other contributions to a poor experience include an application process that isn’t easy to follow and difficulty with interview scheduling. 

Adopting new ways to communicate with candidates is one way to change the “boring, outdated and not creative” manufacturing image. “Text recruiting has become a top strategy among recruiters for on-the-go candidates. Manufacturing candidates are often not sitting in front of a desk or computer to apply, therefore texting is especially useful,” Smart Industry explains.

These small steps can go a long way toward improving the candidate and employee experience in manufacturing. 

Embracing diversity, equity and inclusion

When it comes to diversifying the workforce and achieving your DEI goals, many recruiting efforts fall short by allowing unconscious recruiter bias to slip in. Now there’s a way to get beyond that. 

Artificial intelligence (AI)-driven talent lifecycle management can help talent teams focus on skills rather than on people. By cutting out information such as name, address and age, which tends to encourage bias, it enables bias-free talent decisions. 

When you need to specifically focus on adding diverse talent to your workforce, such as women and younger generations, you can eliminate the candidates from your pool that don’t fit those diversity requirements. AI powers candidate suggestions but leaves the hiring decision up to talent teams. 

The key to the success of any DEI initiative is reporting. Without it, you can’t measure the effectiveness of your strategy. AI can help you keep tabs on DEI across the talent lifecycle, which can, ultimately, help you consistently meet your DEI goals and foster a stronger workforce. 

As Seema Pajula, vice chairman and U.S. industries and insights leader at Deloitte, explains, “Diversity in teams increases the intellectual intelligence, increases the competitive advantage, increases innovation, drives revenue, and drives profit.” 

Learn how Beamery helps manufacturing companies meet their DEI goals.

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