No Available People to Hire? Affecting Your Ability to Operate?

We often hear from our small and medium manufacturing (SMM) clients that a lack of qualified people, or simply people, are hampering their ability to fulfill their current orders and negatively affecting their ability to grow. While that is true, there may be ways to mitigate or eliminate the issue through a combination of approaches. All of these tactics interact with each other in a dynamic way. 

Holding onto Current Workers and Lowering Turnover

The first way to help ensure you can avoid constantly going out to hire replacements for the people who leave is to keep the ones you have!  Turnover is a cost. New people take time to learn, to gel with their colleagues, to build relationships with supervisors and customers. Here’s what you can do to lower turnover:

  • Consult your workers regularly on multiple work-related topics so they can be heard.
  • Be as transparent as possible about the work, the company, the future and the strategy.
  • Find ways to empower your colleagues to own their role, the work and input into improving it.
  • Invest in learning and development to upskill worker progress.
  • Encourage, recognize and reward empowered action.
  • Create a culture of respect, recognition, empowerment and engagement. 

What Practical and Proven Actions Can I Take to Simply Continue or Grow?

We’ve recently posted additional and valuable blogs on various topics that coincide with people, performance, retention, OJT.  If you missed them, check out: 

Process Review, Change and Optimization

When we are aiming to optimize the operation and leverage the people we have in higher order work, we need to free up some time and address inefficiencies. One of these inefficiencies is a non-Lean wasteful process! As a business leader and/or owner, every process in your company can either add value and create a competitive advantage or decrease value. Our advice, based on our experience, is to systematically review all processes starting with the high priority important ones, Lean them out leveraging Lean experience and a set of tools. As you identify waste in each process, you can work to reduce that waste, save time and money as well as increase quality. The net result may well be to free up people’s time and deploy them on other higher value work. Every process is an opportunity to gain a competitive advantage!

Moving People From Low Value Add Roles to Higher Value Add Roles

In tandem with the above, identifying what the higher value work that your people could do if they were freed up by a more efficient and effective process, can also add a competitive advantage. Can I deploy my team of talented people in roles and jobs that allow them to fully utilize their training and talent on work that is higher order and higher value? Our experience tells us the answer is yes.

Leveraging Automation to Free up Workers for Higher Value Roles

As part of the process review and gearing people to be focused on higher order work, it is clear that lower order, repetitive or non-value added sustaining work can be automated. When coordinated with process improvement, review of talent and higher order work, the automation potential can also free up those valuable people assets to deploy where their talent counts. Automation also allows for those least liked jobs done by people, which in our experience leads to boredom followed by becoming flight risks, to be moved to machines.


If you are facing a talent shortage as well as higher turnover, there are multiple levers to pull to mitigate those challenges. VMEC has the expertise to help and support in these areas of challenge. We can help build collective knowledge and practices to have much improved efficient and effective organizations working with fewer people allowing the people you have to be deployed on high value activities.

Author: Patrick Boyle is the VMEC Center Director and CEO. Before joining VMEC, his most recent role was that of Senior Vice President and Chief Learning Officer at Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and prior to that, Patrick was President of the UL Knowledge Services Business, providing knowledge, education, training and advisory services to manufacturers around the world.