After taking a hard hit during the Covid-19 pandemic, UK manufacturing has been in a state of continued transformation ever since. And while digital transformation and a heightened focus on sustainability have been in the headlines, the space has also seen a marked increase in the mobility of the workforce. 

More than ever, employees are prepared to put their own value first and move to the greener pastures if the opportunity arises. To find out exactly what talent is looking for from employers in this new talent landscape, PageGroup surveyed nearly 70,000 workers around the world. 

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In this breakdown, we deep dive into the results of this survey and the implications for employers across the manufacturing sector. Read on for the key data and our recommendations on how to respond. 

High resignation rates are set to continue in manufacturing 

Our research found that, on average, 86% of workers across all sectors are open to the possibility of moving to a new job. In manufacturing, however, this rises to an even 90% - suggesting that businesses in the sector can only rely on retaining one in ten employees over the coming 12 months.

The figure is among the three highest in our research, second only to procurement and supply chain personnel:

  • Procurement, supply chain, and logistics (91%)
  • Manufacturing and engineering (90%)
  • Sales (90%)

The Work-Life Equation: Pay + flexibility + career progression

Although high turnover and talent movement are set to be protracted trends, employers can counteract them. Specifically, our research has discovered three key things that workers are looking for in the current landscape. They are: 

  1. Competitive pay
  2. Flexibility
  3. Career progression

These workforce priorities jointly make up what we have termed the 'Work-Life Equation'. Get it right, and you will be able to attract and retain top professionals even at a time of high turnover. Fail to meet expectations, and you will inevitably fall behind. 

But just how important are these factors to manufacturing workers? And what should employers do to optimise their odds of thriving on the talent market? We investigate below:

1. Pay

While other considerations have grown in importance, our research shows that salary is still one of the most powerful attraction and retention tools in an employer’s arsenal. 

In fact, salary was ranked as the top priority for 1/4 of all respondents – making it the most popular consideration overall. Similarly, our data showed that salary is considered the most important item on a job advert. 

This is unsurprising, considering the market in which we are operating: half of all respondents said that they had been impacted by the cost-of-living crisis, while one in three had not received a pay review in the past two years. 

Our recommendation: Be ready to make the right offer

Salary is only one part of the employer value proposition (EVP) and it's not set in stone, even for a specific role. Lauren Wise, Senior Consultant at Michael Page Manufacturing, recently told The Manufacturer that recruiters should consider a salary spectrum rather than a fixed sum:

Before setting out on the recruitment process, decide what scope the role could have at both the lower and higher salary bandings. Be open to seeing people who might need to grow into the role but have the right characteristics, and also to candidates who may be able to do more than the role initially demands.

Ultimately, if you come across the right candidate, or believe you could be at risk of losing one of your top people, it’s important to make an offer that will appeal to the individual in question. 

At the same time, make sure you know what competitors are paying and the going rates for roles in different specialisms and locations. Our 2023 Manufacturing, Procurement, and Supply Chain Salary Guide gives you all this data and more.

2. Work-life balance

The overnight introduction of flexible working across all sectors during lockdown introduced the workforce to the benefits of working non-standard hours, partial weeks, or from remote locations. Since then, flexibility has ceased to be a standout bonus and become simply an expectation across many industries. 

Our research found work-life balance to have the most influence on job satisfaction, with 60% of respondents selecting it, compared to 43% for pay and 40% for co-workers. Furthermore, 57% of all respondents would reject a promotion that they believed would negatively impact their wellbeing. 

Our recommendation: Look for ways to embrace flexibility

While the nature of the manufacturing sector imposes certain restrictions, workers are still looking for roles that offer certain forms of flexibility. In our study we found that 60% of manufacturing respondents consider work-life balance to be key to their job satisfaction – in many cases, flexible working can be an effective way to address this.

Now is the time for employers in the manufacturing sector to start emphasising work-life balance with wellbeing at the heart of their strategies. Many of the companies we work with are finding novel ways to achieve this: even within largely on-site roles, there may be tasks – like analysis or project management – which can be performed remotely. 

Work-life balance will mean different things for different businesses and in different roles: we would suggest talking to your people and discovering exactly what they want. Is it adjustable hours, or remote working (if applicable), or something else entirely?  

At the same time, avoid taking a one-size fits all approach. Show your people that you trust them and that if they stick with you, they will be able to work in the way that best enables them to thrive.  

3. Career progression

Career growth is something ambitious candidates seek, and employers should meet ambition head-on. This will help you to keep your most career-focused talent at a time when ‘job hopping’ – changing positions quickly to gain seniority and a high salary – is becoming increasingly common. 

Indeed, our survey revealed that manufacturing professionals are more open to changing jobs in a turbulent economy than most workers:

  • Average across all sectors: 53%
  • In manufacturing roles: 68%

This highlights the importance of giving your people positive incentivisation and something to work toward, particularly since concern about economic stability will not keep them from looking elsewhere. However, our data found that employers undervalue the importance of career progression by 10% relative to employees. 

Our recommendation: Prioritise progression.

Focusing on career progression is an excellent – and inexpensive – way to stand out from your competitors. Think about different ways in which you can help your workforce to move their careers forward. It could be through training, upskilling, new qualifications, or a structured progression plan.  

Of course, carving out appealing progression pathways won’t be effective if your people and potential candidates don’t know about them. For that reason, be sure to emphasise this in your messaging and make sure managers throughout your business are doing the same. 

Access the data you need to navigate the Invisible Revolution

Our 2023 Talent Trends Report, The Invisible Revolution, provides a deep dive into the most profound shift in workplace culture since the arrival of the internet. 

Surveying almost 70,000 people globally, this is the world’s most robust and comprehensive study of skilled professionals. It investigates the impact of the Invisible Revolution on different sectors, on different generations, and at different levels of seniority. 

Find out how workers’ priorities have shifted, why, and how manufacturing businesses can build talented teams in this challenging recruitment landscape. Get the data and inside information you need to not just survive this monumental cultural shift – but also to thrive in it.

Download 'Talent Trends: The Invisible Revolution