‘Survey says’ –manufacturing’s challenge is developing leaders to manage productivity | EEF

‘Survey says’ –manufacturing’s challenge is developing leaders to manage productivity

Subscribe to Business Support blog feeds


One of the key findings of the recently released EEF Skills Report 2016 is that manufacturers are struggling to recruit, retrain and develop people management and leadership skills in their businesses. The survey found that there are several successful strategies leading-edge manufacturers are employing to address this problem, including ensuring competitive salaries, training plans linked to career progression and flexible working arrangements.

The leadership gap

Without a doubt, management and leadership skills are increasingly in demand for manufacturers:



And manufacturers know this leadership gap has significant business implications. EEF CEO Terry Scuoler explains, “Management have a responsibility to communicate [productivity] goals and provide regular updates on performance. More than a fifth of the companies surveyed for our productivity report pointed to their efforts on workforce skills development as having a significant and positive impact on company productivity over the past two years.”

One way to tackle this challenge is through recruitment – with strategies such as higher level apprenticeship programmes. However, recruitment alone will not address the scope of the challenge. For many companies, they must make significant reform to their training and HR strategies to retain and develop the skills needed in their workforce.


Competitive salaries

A long-standing strategy companies use to retain their top managers is through offering competitive salaries.


However, since many companies still report a challenge retaining their talent, they perhaps should revisit how they establish to themselves and their employees that their salaries actually line up with industry standards in terms of job roles and seniority. There are several ways to authoritatively provide third-party insight and approval of a company’s salary structure:

Pay & reward scheme design and job evaluations – Ensuring your pay and reward scheme is aligned with business goals, is legally compliant and is modelled to reflect future costs and alternatives. Another option is a job evaluation which is a systematic way of looking at job roles and pay. This job evaluation webinar provides some insight into how they work.

Bespoke salary research – For an in-depth look at your region and industry salary standards, a pay consultant can perform job matching analysis (comparing specific a specific role and its pay at one company to specific competitors).

Workforce pay benchmarking – Most industries have annual surveys of pay covering key positions in the workforce and at the leadership level. In manufacturing, these surveys are completed by EEF and cover 100 technical and manual roles, 80 professional engineering and managerial roles and 13 director level positions.


Training plans

Perhaps the most significant initiative a company can undertake to develop and retain managers and leaders in their organisation is through creating a talent pipeline. A talent pipeline formally identifies what skills existing individuals and segments of the workforce need to progress to the next level in their career. This not only helps companies find leaders from within, but a programme of training helps individuals see where their career is headed and encourages them to stay with the company for the long haul.

While training plans are used widely, only a quarter (25%) of manufacturers provide clear progression plans for their employees. A clear and formal training and coaching plan can help fill this gap.

"Knorr-Bremse Rail UK has recognised the need for formal and contemporary management training as essential in developing both existing and potential managers’ skills across its range of business activities. To this end, Knorr-Bremse in the UK has introduced its “Leading for Success” programme. This continuous, structured development programme provides training and support to all those in a management role or with immediate management potential, equipping and enabling them to manage more positively and effectively." - HANNA HAMMOND, HR DIRECTOR, KNORR-BREMSE RAIL SYSTEMS (UK) LIMITED

Flexible working

The flexible and home working trend is showing no signs of abating: nearly a quarter of a million more UK residents work from home than did 10 years ago. The biggest growth in regular home working has been among women employees, with 35% more working from home in 2015 than in 2005.

Reflecting greater employee demand for flexibility, 43% of manufacturers say they are using flexible working arrangements as a means of attracting and retaining employees. And contrary to popular belief, there is no variation based on company size. It is just about having legally compliant, fair and well-managed HR systems in place. (EEF members can access online HR and employment law resources and template policy downloads dealing with this specific challenge.)

A flexible and home working strategy can be particularly effective in retaining and nurturing women in leadership roles – a perpetual goal for many manufacturing companies considering EEF’s Women in Manufacturing report found that women make up just 23% of the FTSE100 manufacturing boards and a worrying 8% of Executive Director Board positions.


EEF provides training courses in a wide variety of areas, including HR & employment law, management & leadership and productivity improvement, offered at locations throughout the UK and through bespoke training at company sites. Get in touch to discuss how to train and retain your next generation of leaders. And here are a couple of related blogs you may be interested in: 7 tips for developing a skilled workforce and 5 benefits of accredited leadership and management training.

Blog Author: Judith Hogg, Training Director

Get to know Judith and our Training experts.

videospot Leadership and management video

Watch our video to find out more about the many benefits accredited training with EEF has for your business.

Find our more>
productivity Productivity improvement consulting

Our productivity consulting services help you to improve your processes, increasing efficiency and quality.

Read more >
Skills Tailored consultancy

Our team of consultants assess your training needs and deliver bespoke solutions, aligned to your business goals.

Read more >
Online payments are not supported by your browser. Please choose an alternative browser or make payments through the 'Other payment options' on step 3.