Author: Paul Henriques in: HR, Skills, and Training
Advances in technology and education have left modern manufacturing facing two challenges: Keeping up with the rapid changes in technology and innovation and attracting and retaining the next generation of workers. This means that more than half of all employees around the world need to upskill or reskill by 2025 to meeting these challenges. At the same time, there is a distinct lack of interest, or awareness, in younger workers about the opportunities in the industry.
According to a 2020 report by CNBC, manufacturers in the US spent $26.2 billion on internal and external training initiatives to combat the shortage of available workers. With technology constantly evolving at a faster pace, the need to upskill employees will only become more pronounced. While training current staff is crucial, it has also become imperative to reach the next generation, who are more likely to have experience with technology. This has increased the competition for these workers, who are more likely to have stronger demands for competitive wages, flexibility, and clear upward mobility. These demands are challenging companies to rethink their HR processes in a way that improves the retention of these workers.
To address this challenge, manufacturers need to adopt a strategic approach to upskilling their existing employees and hiring younger workers. Here are some key steps they can take:
Skill acquisition should always be based on business goals and skills gaps. Instead of focusing on learning and development costs, you need to treat upskilling as a business investment that drives measurable impact. Begin by identifying skills that are most relevant and in demand to your operations. Then, you should assess the skills and goals of your current staff and design personalized learning paths that will help them close the gaps and advance their careers.
The good news about this technological age is that it has also had a positive impact on how education and training is delivered. You can provide flexible and engaging learning by leveraging digital platforms and tools to deliver content in various formats, such as videos, podcasts, games, or simulations. This allows a certain degree of autonomy in how and when your staff can engage with their learning content. The tools also help you track their learning experience so that you can provide and receive feedback, and recognize the staff for a job well done. Additionally, be sure to provide that most crucial of learning tools: hands-on experience with things such as on-the-job training, mentoring, coaching, or project-based assignments.
To some, manufacturing might sound like just sitting on a line and repeating the same action every minute of the day for 40 years. This is a common misconception that many will have that is difficult to overcome when hiring younger workers. You have to learn to dispel this idea with clear and effective communication that emphasises the benefits of a job in manufacturing, such as competitive wages, career growth, social impact, and innovation. You can do this by showing real-life examples of successful employees who have progressed from entry-level positions to leadership roles, or who have made a positive difference in society through their work. You can also talk about your firm and your mission/ vision for the future and how it aligns with the values and aspirations of young workers.
With the work landscape changing so drastically, you can offer more flexible and diverse work arrangements. While the morning/ evening/ night shift has been a staple, most new workers need some more wiggle room in their scheduling as they seek more work-life balance, autonomy, and inclusion. By providing more flexible options for work schedules, locations, and roles, you can add reasons for the staff to stay.
The future of work will require two types of change across the workforce: upskilling, in which staff gain new skills to help in their current roles, and reskilling, in which staff need the capabilities to take on different or entirely new roles. Hiring and keeping these workers may also need that you foster a culture of trust and empowerment.
By upskilling their employees and hiring younger workers, manufacturers can not only overcome talent shortages but also enhance their productivity, innovation, quality, and customer satisfaction to meet the changing demands of modern manufacturing and gain a competitive edge in the market.