The Secret to Retaining Top Manufacturing Talent? Empathy.

The Secret to Retaining Top Manufacturing Talent? Empathy-1

How Do You Keep Your Top Talent? Short Answer: Empathy

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We’ve all heard the phrase, “People leave managers, not companies.” While data shows the impact poor managers have on teams, the issue goes much deeper than individual bad managers. It comes down to a cultural approach. If you have a retention issue that spans throughout the organization, it likely isn’t tied to one or two managers. It’s a systemic problem. 

Empathy is the answer to the retention problem. Empathy is described as, “the ability to understand and share feelings of another.” It is human nature to want to be heard and understood. How can you build empathy into your company processes? This can be done in a number of ways, all of which include engaging employees. Gallup uncovered that engaged employees are 59% less likely to seek a new job or career in the next 12 months.  Here are some top ways to engage your employees: 

1. Gain employee input with surveys

How you survey employees might change based on the number of staff (one-on-one feedback sessions for small teams, digital surveys for large teams, etc), but one thing is for sure: gathering data from current employees is critical to hiring the best employees. Collecting information on an annual, bi-annual, or quarterly basis can help identify trends, differentiators, or gaps in the hiring process, organization, structure, and more. 

According to the survey we conducted with manufacturers from the Upper Midwest, only 34.2% indicated that they collect employee feedback regularly. 21.1% indicated that they collect feedback rarely and 44.7% indicated that they do not collect feedback.


Need inspiration on which survey questions to ask? Here are some helpful resources:

2. Facilitate regular "Town Hall" meetings

Similar to surveys, the purpose of an open format “Town Hall” meeting is to give employees the opportunity to share ideas and feedback. Town Hall meetings can be facilitated in a number of ways. Sometimes these break down into smaller group meetings (per department, for example). Sometimes they include the entire company (especially for teams of 50 or less). Typically these meetings are used to facilitate a conversation around a specific topic. For example, if you are trying to get feedback on the development of a new product or service. Not only does this give you access to a broad group of problem solvers, it gives employees the opportunity to speak their minds. 

Need help setting your Town Hall agenda? Here’s a great resource.

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3. Provide proof and closed-loop reporting

This is perhaps the most important aspect of the empathic loop. It’s not enough to ask employees for feedback. You must share back to employees the changes that have been implemented because of their feedback. And yes, you should still share the feedback even if no changes were made, along with the “why.” It’s important to outline what happens when employees share feedback. This will not only encourage more feedback, but it will avoid a widespread feeling of neglect. 

There are many other ways to engage employees. Things like:

  • Quarterly team activities
  • Employee spotlights
  • Employee newsletters
  • Training 
  • Free meals 
  • Awards or recognition programs 

There are also structures you can put into place to support employees:

  • Shift flexibility
  • Clean and safe work environment
  • Bonuses and other incentives
  • Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

Need help attracting the right candidates? Let us help.


These points scratch the surface of what can be accomplished to amplify your manufacturing recruitment and retention efforts. If you’re looking for key insights and actionable advice, check out our full feature resource: Master Guide to Recruitment & Retention in the Manufacturing Sector

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