Trends Shaping the Manufacturing Workforce in 2022

Maria Flores
January 5, 2022

If you are directly or indirectly tied to the manufacturing industry then this post is for you!  As major macroeconomic trends continue to reshape workforces across all manufacturing sectors, we can expect major transformations in the industry as a whole. 

Manufacturing has faced severe challenges from supply chain disruption, material shortages, and the pandemic. Organizations have tried to rapidly adapt to new circumstances, with digital transformation projects that have been introduced to help with efficiency and automation.

External factors and digitization have caused higher demands on the manufacturing workforce, so these individuals have had to adapt to more changes in the last two years, than in the last ten or more combined. The evolution of manufacturing roles will continue throughout 2022, so let’s embrace it: things will continue to change. 

The “great resignation” was a major talking point all last year; however, this mass shake-up of workers leaving their "secure" roles and seeking new ones, has mostly been viewed through the lens of white-collar office workers. 

The reality is that only the hospitality sector has been hit harder than the manufacturing industry by the great resignation. Some of the highest rates of staff turnover occurred within lower-paid manufacturing positions. Some industrial companies saw a 20-30 percent workforce attrition rate in 2021 which has since continued through 2022.

For an industry that has been struggling with an aging workforce and under the pressure of a talent gap, this is a real challenge. 

Workers want to feel more purpose in their roles. Technology that frees employees from monotonous tasks and allows them to take on higher-value work is the way to go nowadays. Attracting new talent will be strictly related to investing in technology, reskilling employees, and shifting the perception of manufacturing from the “dirty job” of yesterday, to the high-tech environment of today and tomorrow.

As we have discussed before, the skills gap in the manufacturing sector is growing. New opportunities have been created at a large rate due to the need to create more reliable supply chains. Pushing to re-shore and on-shore manufacturing has been the key. Even knowing the industry can bring in a new wave of workers, there will still be a significant number of gaps to fill. Be prepared for it. 

Manufacturers will seek automation to compensate for their lack of workers, and to maximize the production capacity of their current facilities. So, if you are a candidate, it's in your best interest to start becoming familiar with technology & explore the opportunities for further training. Opportunities will come your way. 

Can you be a manufacturer working from home? For the large majority of employees, the answer is no.  However, we have seen how many employers taking different approaches to supplement the needs of their staff.  Some include staggering shifts, offering more flexible working hours, increased benefits or compensation, and more. While the shift to remote working may have impacted several industries significantly, this trend cannot infiltrate many manufacturers, for their need for boots on the ground production. 

This new trend will also have a large effect on the future of manufacturing. Factory floor workers and managers may no longer have the same desire to continue working in a factory, after their experience working remotely or in another capacity during the pandemic. 

Specialists are expecting a more fluid and unpredictable environment and workforce, which puts more pressure on the ability of less “hybrid-ready” companies like manufacturers to staff and run their operations.

Manufacturers need to make sure they can keep up with the trends that are shaping their workforces. Technology adoption will play a key role in empowering employees, attracting new talent, filling skills gaps as they arise, and enabling new hybrid workflows.
They cannot afford to stay stagnant as the major trends reshape workforces across all sectors.

The economy is coming back to “normal” in some aspects of it, but the landscape has changed, and you have to find a way to adapt to it to be competitive. Change is the only constant.

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