by Susan Hileman, NWIRC, COVID-19 Recovery Program Manager

It’s now been one full year since COVID-19 impacted our workplace. Many companies lost sales or had supply chain disruptions, but even those whose business operations weren’t significantly affected, seem to have staffing issues. On March 5th, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) confirmed US manufacturing is down 561,000 jobs over the past year. In fact, 1.3 million manufacturing jobs were lost in the month of April 2020 alone. Although there has been some recovery, 89 percent of all manufacturers still have job openings they can’t fill.

Manufacturers are both the wealth-builders and the backbone of our communities. So how can companies best address the issue of unfilled jobs? The first answer is to first look at your culture, practices and policies. The best advertisement for NEW employees should come from your CURRENT employees. Ask your management team: Do we actively seek our employees input? How do we handle honest feedback—especially if it’s not in agreement with current practices? Are we staying up-to-date with technology? Do we offer a variety of work plans and benefit packages for different age groups? What specific tools can help our company and our employees thrive in 2021? The reality is, companies must be profitable.
Yet they must also be intentional not to let ‘getting the work done’ become priority over maintaining employee physical and mental health.

Business owners need to look at the investment in their employees, the same way they look at investing in their equipment, because it is just as critically important! You could have the best equipment and most current technology available, but employees need to be trained with the right skillset and treated with the right mindset. If you’re looking for ways to best address the issue of unfilled jobs, begin by looking inward—not outward. There isn’t a silver bullet answer, but addressing your culture, practices and policies is a very good place to start!

Side Note: Join COVID-19 Recovery Program (CRP) Manager, Susan Hileman, for an enlightening hour of business lessons learned from companies over the past year, and strategies to help companies bounce forward from the pandemic. The no-cost webinar is scheduled for March 23 at 12:00noon. Find details and register at