Home Boost Business Lancashire logo

Six ways to overcome skills shortages in your manufacturing business

worker_teaching_apprentice_manufacturing_skills___web 2

Barely a day goes by at present where I don’t hear about a survey highlighting the chronic skills shortage facing businesses, particularly those in the manufacturing sector. With the economy growing again, there’s no doubt the demand for skilled staff is being felt acutely by manufacturers, particularly those with a niche where the requisite knowledge is held by the few, not the many.

Unlike many other sectors, manufacturing businesses need to recruit quickly and flexibly, which can present a problem if there’s a lack of good quality candidates. However, there are ways to overcome these skills shortages. Even if your business doesn’t have a skills gap now, it might do in the future, so here are six tips to help your business address skills gaps and plan effectively to avoid them in the future.

Don’t limit recruitment purely to jobseekers

Limiting your candidate pool to people who are actively looking for a new job can actually increase your overall recruitment costs, as well as putting you far behind your competition in hiring top performers. By making ‘passive recruiting’ an integral part of your overall recruiting strategy, you can attract staff who aren’t necessarily looking for a move, but might consider one if the offer is right.

For example, you might go back through previous job applicants who might now have gained the skills and experience they lacked previously. These candidates, even if they are not looking, will almost always be open to a conversation if they have previously applied to work for your business. Similarly, those who have previously worked for the organisation may also be open to coming back.

Many manufacturing businesses were forced to make redundancies during the downturn. How many of those skilled workers would jump at the chance to work again? 

Don’t look for what’s already there

Businesses can miss potential talent pools already present in their organisation because of an unconscious bias that existing staff can’t make the step up to fill more skilled positions.

Canvas the existing workforce to identify staff who, with a little training, can meet the needs of your business. Encourage continuous communication between HR and management teams to identify training needs for the short, medium and long term. 

Make yours the greenest pasture

The financial impact of losing skilled, reliable and high-performing staff members can be huge, so retain top talent by convincing them they can’t get a better deal elsewhere.

This doesn’t just mean pay, but the overall employee package, such as working conditions, work-life balance, holidays and other benefits, such as healthcare, gym memberships and so on.

The aim is to get to a position where your staff would see leaving the organisation as a major risk. Making yours the ‘greenest pasture’ will turn your organisation into a talent magnet as word spreads that your business is the best employer in the sector.

Plan for the inevitable

In my experience, the term ‘succession-planning’ is a real turn off for the majority of business owners. Nobody wants to focus on the ‘what ifs’ when everything is going to plan, but here’s a fact for you –everybody currently employed in your business will leave at some stage. Being ready to move swiftly when good talent leaves is essential to the long-term health of your business.

Some organisations do this really well by constantly monitoring and testing the employment market – inviting potential candidates to interview even when there isn’t a position immediately available. 

Use a broad range of labour sources

A highly functioning business will have a broad mix of people and skills. Apprentices and trainees can be a vital tool, bringing fresh, knowledge-hungry talent into the business and helping meet future skills needs.

That said don’t underestimate the value of your longer serving employees. These members of staff will provide the experienced, loyal and productive human capital required to keep the business healthy.

I’m aware of a number of businesses who have proactively rehired recently retired employees to plug skills gaps and help train others to prevent those skills being lost to the business forever. 

Don’t be afraid of recruitment consultancies

In an ideal world we’d all be able to recruit the best talent, without having to pay a fee to the third party, but the truth is good recruitment consultancies can save you time and money by streamlining the recruitment process.

They can review hundreds of CVs and thus provide you with only the top candidates for interview. They can also be a very useful sounding board on the current salaries and other benefits that will attract the best talent.

All of this comes with a huge caveat of course. Like any industry, some recruitment firms are very good at what they do and provide genuine consultancy, but some aren’t, so choose carefully and build a meaningful relationship.


Ginni Cooper is head of the manufacturing team at Moore and Smalley accountants and business advisers.


You may also like...

Meet the Boost team: Jonny Slater BOO_MTBT_JonnySlater
30th May 2024
Inspiration & Spotlight
Meet the Boost team: Jonny Slater
Boost’s Scale to Thrive business adviser Jonny Slater, a specialist in investment readiness and high growth startups, talks about his role in supporting Lancashire businesses.
Checklist for cultivating strategic agility AdobeStock_591862856   checklist for strategic ability
28th May 2024
Inspiration & Spotlight
Checklist for cultivating strategic agility
Here Boost business adviser, Jonny Slater, outlines how business owners can navigate uncertainty, embrace change and become a pioneer of business growth.

Sign up to our newsletter

For insights and events to help your business thrive.

Please note if you do not agree to us sharing your information we will be unable to offer you full assistance under the scheme.
Funded by local govmt
Levelling Up
Department for Trade and Business
Northern Powerhouse
Lancashire County Council

The website uses cookies.

Some are used for statistical purposes and others are set up by third party services. By clicking 'Accept all & close', you accept the use of cookies. For more information on how we use and manage cookies, please read our Cookie Policy.