2 ways to address workforce shortages

Nov. 11, 2020
Tom Moriarty explores how to keep the skilled workers you have and increase the workforce supply for the future.

There is no doubt that 2020 has been a soup sandwich. For the manufacturing industry, some have fared very well while others have struggled to keep the lights on.

About the Author: Tom Moriarty

Prior to the pandemic the U.S. economy was ramping up. Revised trade policies and reduced taxes and regulations spurred growth. Massive amounts of capital were subsequently pumped into the economy. The impacts of these policies and actions are difficult to ignore. The skilled labor shortage has been magnified.

On-shoring of manufacturing and supply chains, and increased manufacturing system sophistication means the skilled labor shortage is with us for a while. Automation and digitization will help, if you have the people to install, operate, and maintain complex systems.

As with anything in the world of supply and demand, if skilled and experienced employees are in short supply, their services are in high demand. They have options. People with skills will migrate to places where they feel they are treated best. In many cases this means they will migrate to employers with better pay and benefits. However, that’s not the only reason people leave. How a person feels about where they work strongly influences their decision to stay or leave. Do they feel respected? Are there opportunities to learn, experience new things, or to be promoted?

Employers need to figure out what they can do to keep the skilled workers they have. And what can they do to increase the supply of skilled workers?

First, it’s about what you can do internally by creating a workplace that people want to be a part of. Over my 12 years of writing this column I have consistently talked about organizational reliability and productive leadership. These concepts allow you to create workplaces that people want to be part of. It makes it harder for people to jump ship.

Organizational reliability is having a managing system that assigns accountability. Leaders are accountable to provide direction, guidance, and the assets needed to carry out guidance. Each leader’s direct reports are accountable to carry out current guidance with current assets, including reporting when there are deficiencies in guidance or assets.

Productive leadership is a leader, provided with direction, guidance, and assets, executing their accountabilities. Productive leaders have a personal set of mission, vision, values, and objectives compatible with their current and future jobs.

All too often there is insufficient organizational reliability and inconsistent productive leadership. You can learn more about these internal improvement elements by studying Plant Services library of my articles, or get a copy of my book “The Productive Leadership System; Maximizing Organizational Reliability.”

What can you do to increase the pool of people with the skills that are in demand? You may or may not know that I am the Government Relations Committee Chairman for the Society of Maintenance and Reliability Professionals. We have partnered with Business Leaders United (BLU) to engage U.S. government representatives (federal, state, and local) to support industry led partnerships for industry specific workforce development. Your organization can participate by joining SMRP and BLU.

Get involved regionally. Federal and state education funds are increasingly tied to industry needs. Ask your local community college about getting on its industry advisory board. This gives you the access to get your specific skills and workforce development needs heard. Reach out to your state’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) affiliate and regional manufacturing associations. Engage with your region’s economic development council and employment assistance departments. Most states have training programs that reimburse businesses for 50% or more of training and education costs, particularly for manufacturing.

Just because 2020 has been a soup sandwich, that doesn’t mean you should accept it as “ops normal.” Thinking about change is not change. You must act for change to happen.

Go forth and do great things.

Human Capital

This article is part of our monthly Human Capital column. Read more from Tom Moriarty.

About the Author

Tom Moriarty | P.E., CMRP, President of Alidade MER, Inc.

Tom Moriarty, P.E., CMRP is president of Alidade MER, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in asset management, reliability engineering, and leadership improvement. He is a member of SMRP (Florida Chapter Board Member and CED Director), a past Chair of ASME’s Canaveral Florida Section, and author of the book “The Productive Leadership System; Maximizing Organizational Reliability”. He has a BSME, an MBA (organizational development), is a licensed professional engineer (PE) in Florida, and a Certified Maintenance and Reliability Professional (CMRP). Contact him at [email protected], (321) 773-3356, or via LinkedIn at

Sponsored Recommendations

Arc Flash Prevention: What You Need to Know

March 28, 2024
Download to learn: how an arc flash forms and common causes, safety recommendations to help prevent arc flash exposure (including the use of lockout tagout and energy isolating...

Filter Monitoring with Rittal's Blue e Air Conditioner

March 28, 2024
Steve Sullivan, Training Supervisor for Rittal North America, provides an overview of the filter monitoring capabilities of the Blue e line of industrial air conditioners.

Limitations of MERV Ratings for Dust Collector Filters

Feb. 23, 2024
It can be complicated and confusing to select the safest and most efficient dust collector filters for your facility. For the HVAC industry, MERV ratings are king. But MERV ratings...

The Importance of Air-To-Cloth Ratio when Selecting Dust Collector Filters

Feb. 23, 2024
Selecting the right filter cartridges for your application can be complicated. There are a lot of things to evaluate and air-to-cloth ratio. When your filters ...