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By: Ben Baldwin
November 2, 2021
Building a Smart Workforce company involves integrating and empowering employees with smart technology. This helps companies retain knowledge, capture data, ensure quality, and increase productivity. If you can imagine amplifying and extending the cognitive abilities of your workforce, you may be closer to achieving the Smart Workforce in your workplace.
Technology is not everything when developing a Smart Workforce. The right company culture needs to be put in place to take advantage of this new technology with intelligence and innovation. If we don’t have a company culture that is ready to take on the new and exciting opportunities and challenges of Industry 4.0, then how are we going to grow in this new industrial era?
The Smart Workforce needs a smart culture.
To achieve the Smart Workforce goal, you need a culture that continuously builds, develops, and learns. This is because the Smart Workforce is a moving target. As technology and procedures progress into the seemingly limitless possibilities of Industry 4.0, workforce capabilities need to develop at the same rate.
Today’s Smart Workforce is not the same as yesterday’s, and it won’t be the same as tomorrow’s. As such, a smart culture uses innovative methods and technologies to pursue and harness the best results from the people within.
The competitive advantage of the Smart Workforce company lies within how employees can learn, adapt, and change. Modern workforces must continuously expand their knowledge, advance their capabilities, and seize opportunities.
Let’s take a look at the Smart Workforce and examine how you can continue to build and develop your workforce with the right culture and technology.
How do we chase the moving target that is the Smart Workforce company?
The answer is by continuously learning.
Acquiring new skills, advancing training initiatives, and assimilating manufacturing data are all parts of the Smart Workforce culture. Each of these requires a strong willingness to constantly learn.
Whether you are an employee on the shop floor or part of the leadership team, the adage stands true: knowledge is power. The more information that a workforce can learn, the more effective their work will be.
The quality of work that your employees put out is directly related to their knowledge and skills. A simple representation of this is the benefits of cross-training. Employees that have a small view of the whole operation cannot make smart decisions or think ahead to other factors in production. Compare this to workers that have been cross-trained and we can see employees that have greater knowledge of the different processes and the entire production.
Whether employing real-time learning or traditional training, prioritizing the growth and skills in your workforce is fundamental to the success of your business.
When employees learn new skills, the workforce is better able to face challenges with flexibility and resilience. A culture that encourages employees to learn will see their workforce grow in quality and not only in quantity.
One of the most powerful actions companies can make is to share key process knowledge across their entire organization. This is a fundamental aspect of continuous improvement and the Smart Workforce culture.
But where does this knowledge come from?
One valuable source is from your employees. Experienced workers are a treasure trove of valuable process knowledge. This is especially true when introducing new people. Enabling employees to learn from the experience of others is key to fostering a smarter and more collaborative workforce.
Within a Smart Workforce culture, there is no such thing as a generational divide in skills and know-how. Knowledge becomes less of an individual endeavor and more of a corporate one. Imagine the possibilities of a workforce where when one person learns a better method, the whole group learns it too.
With modern technology such as work instruction software, sharing and retaining knowledge is easier than ever before. Manufacturers take the best practices of their company and digitally share them with the entire workforce through step-by-step work instructions. The knowledge of your most experienced employees is then distributed to everyone. This increases the capabilities of every worker on the shop floor and your workforce is ready for any challenge.
By incorporating intelligent ways of sharing knowledge, learning and process development are accomplished corporately, not individually.
Change is one of the only constants within industry 4.0. Manufacturing technology and processes are evolving at a rate never seen before in the history of manufacturing. The industry is continually finding more innovative ways to work smarter, not harder.
And the workforce is changing as a result. The next generation of workers has a higher expectation of work-life balance, which means that they are not motivated to pull long hours for the sake of simply “getting the job done”. Leading the next generation of workers requires a smart and innovative company culture that is ready to meet at least some of the expectations of this younger generation.
However, this is not as simple as it sounds. Within a company, there are deeply ingrained ways of accomplishing tasks. These methods and attitudes are held onto for years because of the belief that changing them would require too much time and money. Or, often companies are unaware that a smarter way even exists.
It is precisely for this reason that many companies are finding it hard to retain and motivate younger workers.
So then, how do we motivate the new generation?
To put it simply, younger workers are motivated by adding value and taking ownership of the work they create. This means being appreciated for the value they bring to the company. With this in mind, some companies have begun to replace job titles with terms like “value-adder”. This is a small step but it goes a long way in engaging workers and making them feel like partners rather than simply employees.
To remain competitive, manufacturers need to shift their company culture to match the values of the modern worker. Otherwise, staffing will progressively become more difficult.
Analytics and data tracking have opened up new avenues for companies to be in better contact with their production processes. From inventory usage, cycle times, and quality control, connecting to the ins and outs of your shop floor is at your fingertips.
But how often do we see this technology as an opportunity to connect to the people within the workforce? A Smart Workforce requires smart leadership; people that have their finger on the pulse of the facility they lead. Smart leadership is strongly involved with the people that create value.
Your workers are the pulse of your company.
With modern technology and data tracking, company leaders can connect to the capabilities of their workers like never before. This is especially useful for workforce planning in two categories.
When planning out work orders for the day, having an accurate view of your employees’ qualifications and training is incredibly useful. With this knowledge, team leads are better able to choose the right people for the right job.
This also enables companies to prioritize workforce development and training. They can see how future work measures up to the current capabilities of the workforce. If a certain complex job will be repeated at a high volume, management can prioritize training the needed number of employees to get the job done.
By knowing who is trained, who is an expert, when they were trained, and who trained them, companies can get the most out of strategic workforce planning.
Finally, manufacturing companies need to understand that the technological progress of Industry 4.0 enables all employees to become “smart workers”. We say that knowledge can be transferred to every employee within your organization, we mean it! Every employee needs to be engaged for the Smart Workforce to thrive.
With work instruction software integrated into your manufacturing process, operators, engineers, and management benefit from smarter practices and greater knowledge.
If Smart Workforce initiatives only included those in leadership or those on the shop floor, then the corporate culture would break down. Everyone needs to be involved.
This is a fairly simple idea but it is too often overlooked. It is all too easy for employers to focus their workforce development efforts on a few select people. And while it is a good idea to coach certain individuals who are suited for leadership roles, we can’t forget that there are innumerable other ways to engage and support the rest of the workforce. This can be done through:
The Smart Workforce is about finding the best ways to maximize the productivity and potential of every employee in every type of role and position. The best way to do this is with a smart culture where everyone is working towards making their workforce smarter and more capable than ever before.
The goal of achieving a Smart Workforce begins with the people. Providing opportunities that foster employees to grow and develop their skills is paramount.
For a company to succeed in the fast-paced environment of Industry 4.0, it needs to develop the people at the same rate as the business. Otherwise, growth is unbalanced. Your workforce is your most valuable resource and the Smart Workforce is an investment in the people that create value.
Here at VKS, we pride ourselves on the development and empowerment of employees in any sector. We are always seeking to learn and provide better ways for companies to retain knowledge, connect with their workforce, and enhance the skills of their people.
Our software takes the complexity out of learning and empowers your employees to do more and know more.
With the Smart Workforce and a smart culture, nothing is impossible.
Read Next: VKS: The Agile Enterprise and You
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