A recent interesting article from the World Economic Forum got us thinking about how changes to manufacturing and industry are going a lot deeper than technological updates. We talk a lot about the importance of tech upgrades and embracing Industry 4.0 principles, but that's only part of the picture. No matter how smart AI gets, there will always be plenty of people still working for you - and they need attention as well.
The Coronavirus outbreak showed just how disrupted industry can become when the human element becomes disrupted. In turn, this has caused a lot of businesses to start refocusing on making the employee experience easier or more pleasant. This isn't just good for morale today - it could be critical for improving employee hiring and retention in the future!
Three Ways Manufacturing Is Improving Its People Focus
1. Better mechanisms to connect employees
Even on the factory floor, employees are working together, yet still separated due to social distancing. This leads to business challenges and employee emotional fatigue since working environments have drastically changed.
Given these challenges, we're seeing more and more businesses finding new ways to unite their workforce to ensure balance and a way for workers to remain connected and collaborating. Manufacturing workers are gaining access to free or reduced-cost wellness programs - improving their bottom line! When workers feel connected with each other, no matter if they are working in different ways or from different locations; they will still be able to feel like they belong and are making a difference at their jobs.
2. Improved use of technology to enable agility
Industry 4.0 upgrades don't simply improve efficiency within a company - they can also make the lives of workers a lot easier. That WEF article had some disturbing numbers about how many industrial organizations are still relying on paper. In polls, 79% of responding industrial workers said that they still rely primarily on paper in their day-to-day work, and less than half say they've been given any mobile technology by their employer to help improve their work.
One of the biggest advantages of Industry 4.0 initiatives is that they can reduce the size of your workforce by making it easier for workers to do their jobs. This is a true win-win proposition. Your workers feel like they're getting attention, and can do their jobs with less hassle, while you get higher productivity and - potentially - a smaller overall workforce.
3. Recruiting Millennials and Zoomers
Manufacturing is facing a significant skill gap and jobs shortage, and it's only getting worse over time. Current estimates are that less than half of the needed industrial jobs are likely to be filled in the next few years. This is hitting manufacturing and industry particularly hard, because their workforce tends to be older than the average. As more workers and managers reach retirement age, finding replacements for them will become increasingly difficult. More than half the jobs expected to open in the next few years will come from retirees!
Industrial work currently has a very bad reputation among younger workers, and this perception desperately needs to change. Millennials (who, keep in mind, can now be up to about 40 years old) are now the biggest single generation within the workforce, and now we have the next generation, the Zoomers, quickly coming of age. If industry doesn't start embracing more human-friendly policies, and "marketing" themselves as viable career options for younger people, it will become extremely difficult to fill all those needed positions - no matter how many robots you bring onboard.
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