A resource from the leaders in simulation training.

Normally when people talk about leadership and training in the same breath, they’re speaking of leadership training—specifically, training in the soft skill set that leaders need (such as decision-making, problem-solving, communication, etc.). In our series on leadership and staff development, though, we’ve been talking about training your manufacturing staff with the hard skills they need to thrive in their job. A big part of a leader’s job is to inspire, develop, and empower their staff. Today we’re looking at fulfilling your own leadership role by developing your manufacturing employees.

Many organizations offer employee development programs that include training on communication, ethics, diversity, sexual harassment, and conflict resolution. These soft skills are important and make the workplace a more positive environment in which to get the job done. However, staff development also should include the hard skills that employees need to do their job effectively and safely. As a manufacturing leader, you can initiate a hard-skills training program that will benefit both individual employees and the organization as a whole.

“Leadership is about enabling the full potential in others…”

Glenn Llopis, Business Strategy Consultant

“Great leaders connect with their team by facilitating open communication, encouraging employee growth and development, and giving and receiving feedback.”

—Skye Schooley, 10 Ways to Become a Better Leader

The many benefits of hard-skills training for developing manufacturing employees

In case you are wondering if this is where you should be focusing your time and resources, here are just a few of the benefits of skills training.

  1. Increased employee sense of worth and fulfillment. When employees receive skills training, it does a few things for them. First, it lets them know that their company values them enough to invest in them. Second, it makes them much better at their job and builds their confidence. Third, it moves them further along their career path and assures them they aren’t stagnating, but becoming more knowledgeable, skilled, and valuable in the marketplace. All of these benefits contribute to job engagement and satisfaction and improved morale. That brings us to our second point…
  2. Greater employee “embeddedness.” Employee embeddedness is a concept first introduced by Mitchel et al. (2001) and refers to the effect of various forces combining to make a person want to stay in their job. It has three main attributes: fit, links, and sacrifice. Fit is the general compatibility between an employee and the organization; links are the interpersonal connections a person has with the company and the community; and sacrifice is the material and psychological benefits the person must give up if they leave the company. The stronger these influences are, the less likely the person is to leave the job.

As a manufacturing leader, you already know the many challenges associated with staff churn (or turnover). You may even have experienced the frustration of spending time vetting and interviewing job applicants, and teaching them the job, only to find they leave after a few months. (If you haven’t experienced this, go talk to your HR department—they definitely have.) In fact, it’s estimated that every time an organization has to replace an employee, it costs them 6 to 9 months of that person’s salary.

How is that possible? Well, the “real” costs, some of which are intangible, include

  • the cost of hiring, onboarding, and training a replacement;
  • lost productivity while the new person ramps up to the level of the previous worker;
  • low morale among remaining workers who are discouraged by the turnover; and
  • irritated customers who are dealing with your new staff.

So, anything you as a leader can do to increase your staff’s “embeddedness” will reduce costly staff churn. You can do this by ensuring they’re a good fit to begin with, training them to do the job well, and making the overall job environment so positive that they realize they will lose a lot if they leave.

  1. Increased appeal to Millennials. Competition for workers is incredibly fierce these days. By 2024, Millennials will represent about 34% of the workforce, so you absolutely need to know how to make your workplace attractive to this demographic so that you have the workforce you need. Millennials want to see a clear path to success, and are even willing to take a large pay cut for better career development opportunities, so being able to demonstrate a skills development program will help you attract them.
  1. A healthier bottom line. It’s a win-win—developing your staff’s skills has benefits for them, and benefits for your organization’s balance sheet. Think of this: when one piece of production line equipment goes down, it brings the whole line to a grinding halt. Depending on the industry, it can cost a company thousands of dollars per minute of downtime. (The auto industry is reputed to lose $22,000 every sixty seconds the line is down!) So, properly trained maintenance professionals who can find and repair the fault quickly and safely are going to save that business huge sums.
  1. A safer workplace. Staff who are properly trained, particularly in the manufacturing environment, are involved in fewer accidents. Accidents, apart from the terrible human cost, can have a staggering financial price tag as well. In addition to lost productivity downtime caused by accidents and damage to costly equipment, there are also severe OSHA penalties for organizations that don’t give their employees proper training when dealing with potential hazards such as electricity.

And there you go, Troubleshooters! As manufacturing leaders, you are responsible for the development and growth of the staff entrusted to you. Take the time to research potential training programs that will develop your staff’s skills (hard and soft) and create the efficient, safe, and positive workplace you want to lead.


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