Jul 16, 2020

How to Train Workers in a New Industrial Revolution

As manufacturing shifts, associates must be trained to meet the demands of what is now one of the most tech-savvy jobs on the market.

Four years ago, Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum, argued that we are in the middle of the fourth industrial revolution. While the first industrial revolution was powered by coal and steam, the second by electricity and the automobile, and the third by computing, the fourth is powered by even more advanced modes of technology: automation, the mobile internet, and artificial intelligence (AI).

Since Schwab’s presentation, the revolution has gained speed. Workers in manufacturing need more advanced skills than ever before. From using automated tools to find patterns in data to converting customer orders into 3D blueprints used to program machines, frontline manufacturers are doing jobs that require an often specialized knowledge base.

A strategy for continually training and upskilling employees is now essential for achieving meaningful growth. In addition to reducing costs related to hiring new employees, training and development improves employee engagement and reduces turnover. Additionally, it’s often faster and easier to upskill a current employee than it is to hire a skilled candidate: There are currently 1 million more job openings than there are workers to fill them, and 75% of HR professionals see a shortage of skilled candidates for open positions.

Across sectors, manufacturers are prioritizing training as a business imperative. In the era of automation, AI and other advanced technologies, your operation needs modern training programs designed to upskill workers and prepare them to succeed in their rapidly evolving roles.

Busting out of the breakroom

For many manufacturers, training programs are available in one of two places: (1) the shared computer in a breakroom or (2) an offsite training program. Unfortunately, this turns training into a limited resource — your employees either have to wait their turn to use the computer or schedule their life around a training course.

These limitations also strain your ability to maintain seamless and efficient operations. From getting coverage for the employee’s missed time at work to paying for transportation, outside training courses can have a high cost. And when the break room computer is the only source of training materials, upskilling can take an extended period of time as employees slowly wind their way through the training module.

The secret to modernizing the upskill process is a digital workplace. A digital workplace turns training into an unlimited resource, done at the employee’s convenience. Going digital also makes tracking and compliance issues a thing of the past—you can automatically capture the time employees spend on upskilling, pay them for their time, and maintain constant visibility to the progress of individual employees.

Key elements of effective upskilling

Upskilling can keep your company competitive. With access to additional training and an expanded skill set, workers can take on more hours—giving them an additional financial incentive to upskill.

Here’s how to make upskilling in a digital environment work for your operation and your workers:

  • Allow employees to use their own devices. There is a persistent myth that manufacturing workers are not tech-savvy. The reality is that the vast majority of Americans (81%) have smartphones—why not turn that device into a training tool? A digital workplace allows employees to complete their training modules on their own smartphone or tablet, enabling anytime, anywhere access to training modules.
  • Think small. When taking an all-day or half-day training, your employees are forced to absorb a large amount of knowledge all at once. Breaking up training into smaller “microlearning” sessions on a digital workplace can result in better retention of what they have learned. By spacing out lessons and allowing workers to learn on their own time, you can help your employees gain a better grasp of the material.
  • Get interactive. For manufacturing-based training, a visual learning model in a digital workplace can also help your employees learn faster and retain more information. From recreating a machine interface to visually demonstrating parts assembly with videos, digital training is engaging.
  • Solicit employee feedback. No training program should be one-and-done—you should constantly evaluate how well modules train employees and what could be done to improve the training program in the future. Asking for employee feedback can make future training initiatives more engaging and relevant.

Given the importance of AI, automation, and the mobile internet, modern employee training techniques are vital for remaining competitive in manufacturing. Without the flexibility of digital training tools, it will become increasingly difficult to attract, train or retain skilled employees—both now and for the foreseeable future.

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