Adapting to change and workforce planning: three people management tips for manufacturers

The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated an already challenging environment for manufacturers, following the disruption of Brexit and its impact on vital international supply chains. With economic activity and consumer demand now significantly reduced, the manufacturing sector will seek every possible opportunity to get back on its feet whilst still negotiating unknown challenges that lay ahead.

People remain critical to the UK’s manufacturing sector and workforce planning is now among one of the biggest areas of worry for employers. The government’s furlough scheme has provided a safety net for those businesses who need to keep hold of their staff. But, with the scheme due to end in October and more onus being placed on employers to contribute, businesses are having to consider what people they will need to be successful in the future.

Here are three ways manufacturers can ensure they’ve got the right people to thrive in these uncertain times.

      Keep engaging with your employees

First, it’s important that employers are engaging with their employees. Whether they’re on furlough, working from home or on premises, employees’ perceptions of the business and mindsets will vary widely - especially in terms of outlook for the future.

Keep your workforce engaged with how you are approaching the coming weeks and months in order to keep them connected to the business. It’s impossible to over-communicate with your employees at the moment.

      Establish the skills your business needs

Establish what you need most in your organisation and align the skills to those requirements. This will identify any gaps that you need to fill and, with unemployment on the rise, there will be opportunities to hire experienced talent.

Stay mindful of your future business and potential challenges in order to decide which skills you can develop in your existing workforce and which skills you need to bring in from outside. 

      Review your contracts, policies, and processes

Underlying the importance of engagement and motivation is the need to review and, in most cases, refresh documentation. Although temporary furlough agreements with employees have provided adequate changes in working arrangements, you may need to change employment contracts more permanently to reflect the changing nature of your business and employment (e.g. home and flexible working and changing shift patterns). 

However, it’s critical that appropriate and robust contracts, policies and processes form the foundation of your HR strategy to allow you to remain agile in uncertain times.

We’ve been supporting our manufacturing clients with a variety of people interventions. Although the future is opaque, this presents an opportunity for the businesses in the manufacturing sector to review their strategies and align their people to them.

If you need any support or advice on these topics, please contact David Gibbens.

Related industries

Coronavirus: adapting to change

As coronavirus lockdown restrictions ease, businesses across the country are faced with a period of reactivation and reimagination.

What does the 'new normal' look like for your organisation?

Find out more