Keep Your Best Employees: Manufacturing Employee Retention Strategies

September 18, 2023
Written by: Micki Vandeloo

There is so much buzz in the news about manufacturers’ inability to find workers, but what if you have trouble keeping those workers once you hire them?  Sometimes that is just as daunting for a company as finding the workers in the first place!

Here are some tips for retaining your existing manufacturing workforce:

  • Offer apprenticeship programs. Apprenticeship programs provide a career pathway for new and current workers.  According to the Department of Labor’s Apprenticeship website[1], 90% of employees who participate in an apprenticeship program retain their job following completion of the apprenticeship.
  • Survey your employees on a regular basis. To retain employees, it is vital that you conduct employee surveys at least once per year.  These surveys help managers to “check the pulse” of their workforce and identify areas for improvement to the culture and working conditions with the added benefit of anonymity for workers.  The company Workhuman published a list of effective employee survey questions along with considerations for conducting an employee survey in a 2023 article[2].
  • Recognize employee milestone anniversaries. Long term employees are vital to the health of a company. In a recent blog post by Vantagecircle[3], some of the benefits of long term employees include familiarity with the company culture, the availability of mentors for newer employees; cost effectiveness for the company as the cost to replace an employee is significant; and a positive reflection on the company.  This article also includes tips for modernizing your service awards program, including:
    • Offer personalized rewards that focus on the employee’s specific role and contribution to the company.
    • Ensure that service awards reflect the expectations of employees at the various stages of employment (a 5 year award should not be the same as a 25 year service award).
    • Recognize an employee’s values, efforts and successes in addition to recognizing years of service.
    • Include team members and family members in service award ceremonies.

Some great ideas for service awards include certificates, pins and other symbolic awards; time off; personalized rewards; stock options; a recognition letter from company leadership; promotions; and training and development opportunities.

  • Provide timely performance feedback. Employees want to know how they are performing, and those that receive timely feedback, both positive and negative, will be more likely to stay at an employer.
  • Help employees plan their career and execute the plan. Managers should sit down with their employees at least once a year to develop and review an employee’s career goals and help create and execute a plan to achieve those goals.  These career plans should include training to obtain new skills and offer mentoring to help employees achieve their career goals.
  • Offer a “Dream Manager” program. A Dream Manager program trains managers to help employees achieve their personal goals, which can include purchase of a car or home, or obtaining education to further their career.  According to a Matthew Kelley quote on the Dream Manager program website[4], “A company can only become the-best-version-of-itself to the extent that its employees are becoming better versions of themselves.”

I hope these ideas are helpful as you think of new and creative ways to retain your valued employees.  After all, employee loyalty is good for your company, your community and your bottom line!





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