Expressions Partnership


Manufacturing - A Case In Point

Despite the decline since the 1970s, when manufacturing contributed 25% of UK GDP, the UK is currently the ninth largest manufacturing nation in the world.

Overall, the UK’s industrial sector has increased by 1.4% a year since 1948, according to a recent report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The level of real GDP in Quarter 4 2022 is now estimated to be 0.6% below where it was pre-coronavirus (COVID-19) in Quarter 4 2019.


Brexit and Covid-19, both of which have significantly damaged economic conditions including international trade have fuelled publicity of business displacement to within the EU.


However, reshoring is the re-appropriation of manufacturing by British businesses from abroad to the UK.

Over 40% of reshoring is returning from China, and almost 20% is returning from India- the two most attractive countries in offshore manufacturing placement by UK business


Training solutions to the manufacturing sector

However, there is one challenge manufacturers consistently come across: hiring and retaining the right talent.

Nurturing The Talent Bank

Recruiting, investing in and retaining a workforce with the required skillsets has long been difficult for manufacturing businesses in the UK.

However, more recently the challenge has been exacerbated by Brexit, the Covid pandemic, digitalisation, the circumstances of which have contributed to low unemployment and wage inflation.

Now, according to latest research, some 36% of vacancies in manufacturing are proving hard-to-fill  and as applicants lack the appropriate skills, qualifications or experience. This compares to an average rate of 24% across all industries.

The problem cuts across almost the entire workforce: from leadership and management to production and fulfilling orders and continuing operations more generally.

An ageing workforce is part of the problem, with early retirement or reduced hours as they look forward to retirement.

The manufacturing sector suffers from an image problem too, viewed as poorly paid, with monotonous repetitive unskilled jobs using heavy machinery, with no opportunities for personal or professional development.

Impact on Business Metrics

The casualties are productivity, quality, efficiency, output and reduced margins

Human metrics

No continuity, limited teamwork, high turnover, low achievement and work satisfaction contributing to low morale and constant firefighting.

Compound Interest

Some companies recognise that these issues could become compounded.


Some are tackling the situation by increasing pay or financial awards, retention bonuses or one-off payments to appease the recently increased cost of living.

Others are investing more in workforce training and development, offering apprenticeships within the firm and trying to develop an “investors in people” culture so that employees can identify career paths both in developing core skillsets and their own management development.

The lockdown has impacted to the extent that flexible working, where possible is a more accepted option.

Factors that affect this industry include 

  • Lack of young talent entering the industry 
  • Supplier costs in comparison to overseas competition 
  • Legacy of outdated working culture in many organisations     
  • Lack of integration of modernisation with leadership and management  

Expressions has worked with and continue to work with a number of manufacturing and engineering organisations in the UK and across Europe to realise the existing culture, and define the desired culture aligned to a vision of meaning and purpose.

The Case in Point

A recent intervention had straightforward objectives to achieve in a manufacturing environment:

  • Improve the efficiency of the operation and thereby the sale value of the organisation.
  • Reduce the product reject rate
  • Increase profit margins


  • The current situation was a reject rate of 0.45%
  • Staff turnover was high in recent joiners and low in established personnel
  • A culture of ‘Them’ and ‘Us’
  • Spiralling costs for re-work, overtime and wastage
  • A strong order book
  • No financial staff bonuses for over a decade

Contrary to perceptions manufacturing pay is around 12% higher than other sectors and can offer exciting, often hi-tech career options.

How the industry is meeting the challenge


Stage one of our approach was to engage first with the Senior Leadership team from the MD through to the established directors.

The challenge for any business leader is to balance their technical specialism with inspirational leadership.

This is heightened when your business leaders are engineers as they have a specific mindset which is exceptional in the logical flow of product design and manufacturing. 

A simple shift in appreciation for the role each and every department played in the production was quickly established and the leadership team were more visible on the production floor instead of camped on the first floor. 

Stage two was to work with the middle Managers as they had been promoted through longevity of service or on merit for their technical expertise. 

The final stage was to work with the remainder of the workforce focusing on cultural architecture creating shared values to enable the organisation to arrive at its visual destination.

Inevitably a few extinct mindsets who were not willing to de-crease left the organisation whilst others entertained a different approach.

The intervention in a top-down/down-up engagement realised the “Team” as part of a production business where:

Business Metrics

  • The rejects rate went from 0.45% to 0.03% 
  • Bonuses were given for the first time in years
  • The profit margin was a healthy one
  • Controllable staff retention increased and people were developed from within the organisation to achieve their potential

Human Metrics

Management and Staff engagement allowed them to:

  • Enjoy what they do 
  • Have reduced episodes of ‘Sunday night syndrome’ 
  • Contribute to the bigger picture 
  • Appreciate the contribution of all within the organisation 
  • Fulfil their career potential 

This specific case study is not unique in this sector.

We work with individuals and teams to help them identify their limiting and sometimes outdated beliefs often held for 40+ years and shift their beliefs and associated behaviours to a more beneficial working environment for all employees.