Manufacturing and the future of work

Recognizing the changing face of the workforce

Once considered the stepchild of careers, manufacturing is gearing up to be a "career of choice" for millennials, and there is plenty of opportunity for those interested. Over the next decade, nearly 3.5 million manufacturing jobs will likely need to be filled. The reality is that the work manufacturing organizations do has fundamentally changed and labor needs are changing with them. Manufacturers need employees who are highly skilled in technology, data science, and engineering.

Manufacturing labor needs are shifting

The future of work is no longer just about filling today's open needs; it's about re-evaluating the work and the workforce of tomorrow. What comes to your mind when you think of manufacturing? What if we told you that in the manufacturing industry of the future, you may not be able to get a job if you can't run a robot? Labor needs are changing. It's about innovation, technology, sensors, data, and high wages. It's exciting. The industry is growing, baby boomers are retiring, and the skills required are shifting. The challenge? That skills gap is expected to result in two million of those jobs going unfilled, making employee recruitment and retention among today's biggest manufacturing challenges.

Part of the answer to alleviating the talent gap is to get people excited about manufacturing. The salaries are already attractive. Conducting public tours, offering internships to students, and better company branding can also help support recruiting efforts, but retaining employees once hired is equally important.

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Create a simply irresistible employee experience

​Employers can drive employee engagement and transition to a new, digital future of work by focusing on five strategies for an improved work environment: meaningful work, supportive management, a positive work environment, growth opportunities, and trust in leadership. By prioritizing employee engagement and satisfaction through a simply irresistible experience, manufacturers can attract and retain the skilled talent they need to keep up with the evolution of manufacturing.

Groundbreaking investments in R&D and robotics will likely make manufacturing more attractive, with fewer repetitive tasks. The next generation of employees needs more stimulation and purpose. Millennials grew up on technology. They use it in almost every aspect of their personal lives and have come to expect the same level of technological conveniences at their places of work. If a company is not providing technical benefits like mobility, ease of use, and self-service, then top talent is likely to seek other jobs that meet their digital expectations. A simply irresistible experience is enabled by end-to-end design thinking that not only puts the employee at the center, but keeps them there.

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Activate the digital organization. Get productive. Get engaged.

Now is the time for HR to step up and provide technologies to support and engage manufacturing employees—and there's lots of opportunity around labor.

Having a streamlined digital workplace not only helps to retain and attract the incoming workforce, but it's also good for the bottom line.

Manufacturing organizations can optimize their labor efforts while creating a more engaging experience for supervisors and employees if systems are easy-to-use, mobile, and digital. A digital organization will enable not only a change in technology, but in the mindset required to operate in a completely new way.

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Streamline labor for good. Optimize the human capital balance sheet.

Human capital represents one of the biggest, if not the biggest, components of any profit and loss statement (P&L). Passively managing that portion of the P&L can present risk not only to the organization's financial status, but to their corporate brand as well. It will be critical to ensure that costs have a specific and intended impact on the balance sheet and that an ROI is clear and measurable.

Because manufacturing is transitioning to a new, digital future of work, it's important to help people be as productive and engaged in their jobs as possible. Companies can redirect time away from more mundane, time-consuming tasks, and on to more strategic ones, like training and mentoring staff and driving the innovation that manufacturers are known for.

The right digital tools and organizational change management initiatives can alleviate these pain points for supervisors. One major US manufacturer did just that. The company experienced more than 450,000 missed punches in a single year. By putting a change management plan in place that encouraged all employees to punch the clock regularly, their labor technology tool could automatically do what so many supervisors spent time managing manually.

Employees benefited from optimizing labor systems as well. Workers got a more accurate paycheck as managers may or may not get the actual time right when inputting their hours after a missed punch. Digital technology also made it easier to find overtime bids they wanted to access. New, streamlined processes were defined to make it easier to report absences.

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Make headway and sustain organizational performance

Engagement is more than making mundane processes easy. It's about creating a connected organization with training, new technologies, analytics, and upward mobility for workers and sustaining that high performance over time.

Practical steps toward employment engagement, retention, and satisfaction can be achieved through a variety of programs. Start by:

  • Analyzing ways to optimize key workforce behaviors around payroll systems.
    Workforce analytics tools can provide the visibility into metrics that could have tremendous benefits to the productivity of workers and provide the insights managers need to better direct people and realize cost savings.
  • Allocating the cost savings you realize from labor analytics to fund the engagement programs needed for success.
    Companies should connect with each recruit and employee through robust, digital experiences that are customized specifically for them—just as they do in their personal lives. And they should create a workplace that fosters digital-ready talent through career development and a culture based in continuous learning.
  • Breaking an all-encompassing digital HR strategy into phases.
    Most importantly, these changes can't be done overnight. It's an incremental process that is often weighted by digital maturity and budget constraints. Labor is an excellent place to start.

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The drive behind innovation

Manufacturing supervisors, in particular, will likely crave innovative HR solutions that drive better visibility and strategy for their companies. Why? It’s not just because they are time-compressed. They are innovators themselves!

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