Manufacturing is facing an employment crisis, with over 2 million unfilled positions in the US expected during this decade, according to a report by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute. This could cost the economy $1 trillion in 2030 alone, and more than half of manufacturing employees will work entirely or primarily from home throughout the year. To increase output without adding more workers, upskill existing staff, and support ongoing remote work, manufacturers need to alter the way they empower their teams.
Unfortunately, there is little interest in the industry among Generation Z, with only 3.5% of respondents to a 2021 poll by talent development platform Tallo indicating a desire to work in manufacturing. Manufacturers need to start thinking about how to target a generation that is at risk of passing them by for greener pastures—let’s take a look at what they can do.
Technology to drive innovation
Technology is making equipment more advanced for operators, but there is still a reliance on outdated methods, making it difficult for frontline personnel to keep up with global digitalization. Frontline workers are not being given sufficient equipment to do their jobs and develop skills across the factory. Manufacturers should take advantage of technology and innovation to improve worker performance and productivity.
There are a variety of platforms that enable operators to communicate in real-time about production-related difficulties. In order to do that, data must be collected from the source, sent to a wide range of recipients and stakeholders, and even converted from speech to text or vice versa. People with expertise in data analysis can then apply that knowledge to improve worker performance and equipment productivity in the manufacturing sector.
A more engaged workforce
Employee engagement should not just be limited to anonymous surveys, but should be ingrained in the company culture with frequent check-ins and a forum for input. This should not be left to HR for quarterly reviews. The industry must work together to change the way workers view manufacturing and use technology to involve them in recruiting and internal operations. This will diversify the applicant pool and create a workforce that is not limited by traditional business methods.
Rewards for employees should be connected to engagement. One solution is to sponsor employees for degrees or certificates that will improve their general expertise rather than specific company skills. It is also important to let individuals know their value in terms of their work, abilities, and attitudes. All factory workers, team leaders, and the executive team, not just HR, should contribute to this.
Education to provide flexibility
Education and training across a range of abilities is crucial for closing the talent gap. This allows workers to advance their knowledge and abilities and conform to the modern workforce's desire for multiple skill sets. By providing a comprehensive learning and development program and on-the-job training, manufacturers can recruit individuals who may not otherwise apply. These strategies should be implemented quickly to avoid fighting the current. While retaining staff is important, it is unrealistic to expect employees to stay in one job for a long time, especially during a recession.
Manufacturing has often focused on marginal gains, such as developing algorithms for a 1% increase in productivity, rather than helping new hires adjust quickly. Companies should focus on serving their employees and helping them thrive across industries. In return, they will have a more skilled workforce to draw from and the tools to train them quickly when inevitable churn occurs.
It is a misconception to believe that companies and employees owe each other loyalty. We need to accept that building a pleasant workplace environment benefits both the individual and the factory. Employees will have different priorities in an uncertain economy, and the manufacturing industry must accept and embrace this.