Managing the Impact of Uncertainty on The Manufacturing Workforce

Managing the Impact of Uncertainty on The Manufacturing Workforce

Success within the manufacturing world relies on getting the right balance of cost, productivity, quality and scalability. If any of these get too high (or too low) in comparison to the other elements, the overall production won’t be competitive.

Today, this careful balance is being threatened by several factors. In turn, these are having a knock-on effect on the workforce. As well as the ongoing impact of digitisation and automation, a number of critical trends are forcing manufacturers to think differently about their talent strategies:

Candidate Choice Has Matured

Manufacturers are faced with all-time low levels of unemployment, record high employment rates, and increasing numbers of job vacancies in the market. Talent shortages are more acute than they have been for decades, and manufacturers are having to compete for in-demand talent. This is putting workers firmly in the driving seat. They have more choice than ever before, and can often pick and choose between multiple job offers. It’s critical that employers take steps to ensure their business stands out from the crowd. And, once someone has shown an interest in working for you, you need a seamless onboarding process that ensures you secure them before someone else does. After all, if your recruitment process is slow or overly complicated, great talent will look elsewhere.

Increasing Cost of Talent

The growing war for manufacturing skills is also increasing the cost of talent, as manufacturers vie to out-bid each other. Over the last few years, increasing labour costs and sharp swings in currency exchange rates have flattened some of the global differences in cost competitiveness. According to Trading Economics, in February 2000 average wages in the manufacturing sector stood at £356 per week. By April 2019, this had risen to an all-time high of £612 per week. This highlights how important it is that manufacturers take a fresh look at their recruitment strategies, to ensure they secure the best talent, at the right cost.


In the run up to 29th March, many manufacturers stockpiled goods in anticipation of delays and complications at the border. But when our exit from the EU was delayed, many manufacturers responded by bring forward their usual summer production shutdown. This led to manufacturing output grinding to a halt, with manufacturing growth nearing a three-year low. Uncertainty remains over how manufacturers will be able to tap into the European talent pool, and whether increased custom regulations will make supply chains more complex, lengthy and costly.

One or more of these factors may mean you’re not currently growing your business. In fact, you may actually be constricting your operations. Nonetheless, if you don’t put the right foundations in place today and start building a workforce strategy that can adapt to change and uncertainty, you won’t be ready to grow when the tides change.

Manufacturing Workforce Strategies to Combat Uncertainty

One of the foundations that manufacturers should look to put in place to help combat the impact of uncertainty is a Total Talent Management mindset. At ManpowerGroup, we’re partnering with some of the best-known organisations in the country to progress their Total Talent Management journey.

Traditionally, many organisations have experienced a disconnect between their permanent and non-permanent workforces – with workforce strategies, management processes, technology, and even engagement levels often differing depending on the type of worker. This creates silos within the workforce.

But when permanent and non-permanent workforces are no longer managed separately and employers think about their workforce more holistically through a Total Talent Management mindset. Employers can then focus on attracting, engaging and retaining the right person with the right skills, regardless of how they need to be employed. In the face of ongoing uncertainty, partnering with a workforce solutions provider like ManpowerGroup to implement Total Talent Management can provide manufacturers with: a better understanding of how skills can be moved internally; the skills gaps that are likely to emerge in the years ahead; and where and how the workforce should be ramped up and down.

Creating a Single Point of Truth

At ManpowerGroup, we partner with many of the world’s leading organisations as they start, progress and complete their Total Talent Management journey. We give them a single point of truth by unifying and connecting their analytics, technology and talent sources to give the single point of truth – the intelligence needed to make more informed, strategic choices about acquiring, developing and retaining all talent types.

For those companies who are just beginning their journey to Total Talent Management, we can help you take your first steps by integrating your existing Recruitment Process Outsourcing programmes, Managed Service Programmes and other staffing arrangements, drawing on our extensive experience in each of these areas. Click here to learn more about our Total Talent Management expertise.

Alternatively, to learn more about the ways in which the manufacturing workforce will need to evolve in the years ahead, download our whitepaper The Future Factory: Mapping The Skills That Will Power Manufacturing.

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