The pandemic of 2020 had an undeniable effect on the manufacturing workforce. A SYSPRO survey from last year found that not only did the pandemic force most manufacturers to have employees work from home-based offices, but many also faced workforce reductions. Thirty-one percent had to furlough staff and nearly a quarter (24%) said that not all staff would return from furlough. Additionally, 27% of manufacturers reduced their overall headcount.
Now that the economy is recovering, manufacturers face a world in which they’re rapidly working to ramp up to meet demand. This will require hiring additional personnel. As a result, in 2021, the manufacturing workforce will be a mix of experienced people plus new employees who may not have entered the physical workspace yet due to COVID-19 restrictions. Skills development is critical to safeguarding investments in manufacturing technologies such as an ERP.
After all, it’s not just the pandemic that has changed the way we work. Constant advances in technology require new skills to keep up and leverage these technologies. For instance, while many technologies were already moving to the cloud, the pandemic accelerated that shift. What’s more, the e-learning programs that became much more common when everyone was forced to work from home will likely remain long after the crisis has passed. For many, however, finding both the time and the motivation to complete e-learning sessions has proved challenging.
Management needs to think strategically about training in the new world into which we are emerging. As such, make sure to keep the following in mind as you develop and execute on a training strategy.
Don’t forget the social aspect of learning when using digital, remote learning platforms: One of the reasons that in-person training — particularly in groups — is so effective, is because learners are motivated by the social aspect of the program. Attendees find the discussions useful and interesting and are spurred on by competition with others.
Online training should not simply be a content library. Instead, it should create a space where people want to learn, rather than a place where they are forced to learn. E-Learning can feel isolating, but if businesses provide a learning platform for social learning — through chats, discussions and forums or virtual classroom sessions — then this will increase engagement and interest.
Make sure that the learning experience platform you use can take care of booking, attending and post-classroom or event activities. All learning should be tracked and managed from a single area. Training is complex enough without adding the additional complexity of having to use additional scheduling, booking and tracking applications.
Consider investing in augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) for hands-on training: The shift to online learning has made it difficult to teach hands-on skills that will be used on the factory, shop floor or warehouse. Larger manufacturers have used AR / VR for years to provide a physically safe environment for learning, and as it becomes more common, prices will fall. There are all kinds of advantages, including the enablement of remote learning via a limited number of experts, as well as improved safety.
Personalize employees’ learning experiences: Today, app recommendations for restaurants, online shopping and streaming entertainment are all driven by AI that relies on your past choices to predict what you would likely enjoy in the future. Your solution provider should run training on a platform that offers personalized learning experiences — across all devices — with modules that are less focused on heavy theory and instead infused with useful practical applications, curated content and microlearning assets. The platform should be able to identify each user’s particular area of interest and make recommendations of courses the user might find interesting and useful in the future.
Use micro-learning to help time-constrained employees to study: Many people battle to find the time to complete additional studies, and the longer and more intense the course, the more difficult it becomes to remain engaged and prioritize that required time. Microlearning provides learners with limited free time the opportunity to upskill in manageable, shorter modules that help increase knowledge transfer and engagement at a rapid pace. Because the modules are smaller, they often cost less, which helps to reduce the financial burden for an organization while still ensuring their employees are learning. A Linkedin learning survey recently showed that 58% of employees prefer opportunities that allow learning at their own pace.
The next few years will be challenging for manufacturing, as they adapt to rapid economic shifts and a changing labor market. By adopting a forward-thinking training strategy with modern technology tools, manufacturers can ensure their workforce is ready to meet these challenges.