Navigating record turnover

The U.S. manufacturing industry has been in a state of continued transformation over the last few years. 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 as many see the opportunity in this candidate-short market.

More than ever, employees are prepared to put their own value first and move to 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.

Download Talent Trends 2023: The Invisible Revolution

Read on for the key data we uncovered for the manufacturing sector and our recommendations on how to respond.

High Resignation Rates Are Set to Continue in Manufacturing

Our research found that, on average, 82% of workers across all sectors are open to the possibility of moving to a new job. In manufacturing, however, this rises to 86% - suggesting that businesses in the sector can only rely on retaining one in ten employees over the coming 12 months.

This has led to an increase in counteroffers, with businesses raising salaries exponentially in a last-ditch effort to retain their top performers. In an industry requiring a wide range of specific skills, that precise talent becomes precious.

So, how can employers both retain their best workers and build a reliable pipeline of talent in this environment?

Although high turnover and talent movement are set to be continuing 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. Clear career progression

These workforce priorities jointly make up what we have termed the Work-Life Equation, which you can read more about in the full Talent Trends report.

So, how important are these factors to manufacturing workers? And what should employers do to optimize their odds of thriving on the talent market?


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 strongest factor in attracting talent for 1/4 of all respondents – making it the most popular consideration overall. This is unsurprising, considering the market in which we are operating: half of all respondents said that they had been negatively impacted by the increased cost of living.

Our Recommendation: Be Ready to Make the Right Offer.

Erin Radke, a Director at Michael Page, says:

Make sure you know what competitors are paying and the market rates for roles in different specialisms and locations, then regularly review existing employees’ salaries with that information. You can do this with resources like our 2023 Engineering and Manufacturing Salary Guide, which gives you access to the latest average salaries for a multitude of roles.

Radke points out that there is more to compensation than base pay. For manufacturing professionals, benefits like a medical PPO plan that includes incentives for dependents, 401k plans that start from day one of employment and include an employer match, or opportunities to earn bonuses can make all the difference.

Radke also mentions, paid vacation can be a significant factor:

My team has spoken to candidates who have been in the job for a decade or more and they only get one or two weeks of vacation. That is not sufficient any longer, especially post-COVID, so three to four weeks of paid vacation is something we recommend with any company, regardless of seniority.

Work-Life Balance

Our research found work-life balance to have the most influence on job satisfaction, with 7 in 10 people saying they would choose it over career success. In manufacturing specifically, 79% of professionals said they value flexibility in terms of working hours. As many jobs in manufacturing cannot be done remotely, this is the most realistic way to offer a level of flexibility and work-life balance for these professionals.

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.

For these professionals, it’s not about leaving a little early, or taking a longer break in the middle of the day.

Radke explains:

There is more focus on what shifts or which parts of an employee’s day they can work. Some facilities need workers in from 6:00 AM until 3:00 PM, or some employees are in a second shift role where they start their day at 2:00 PM and work into the night. Offering some choice or rotation there could be beneficial, depending on your workforce.

It's important to 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.

Career Growth

Career progression 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 45% of manufacturing professionals say they are still open to changing jobs in a turbulent economy. Giving your people positive incentivization and something to work toward is paramount.

Our Recommendation: Prioritize Progression

Focusing on career progression is an excellent – and inexpensive – way to stand out from your competitors. However, this can be complicated as it is difficult for manufacturing organizations to offer growth options unless the facility and business itself are also growing.

This is also frustrating for workers, as lateral mobility via switching to another type of manufacturing can prove to be another challenge. Due to safety protocols, the higher risks of injury, and the technical nature of the job, there are few transferrable skills from one type of manufacturing to another.

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.

Radke says:

It’s important to regularly conduct performance reviews and acknowledge success so that when there is opportunity for progression, you’re able to offer that to stand-out employees right away.

Access the Data You Need to Navigate the Invisible Revolution

Our 2023 Talent Trends Report, The Invisible Revolution, provides a deep dive into a profound shift in workplace culture. 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.

Get the data and inside information you need to not just survive this monumental cultural shift, but also to thrive in it.

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Talent Trends 2024: Understanding workplace expectations

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