Rethinking People For The Manufacturing Sector

As the drumbeats of technological advancements coupled with digitization grow larger, firms will need to develop strategies to survive this new era


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The manufacturing sector is no stranger to technological disruptions. Each industrial revolution has witnessed some form of disruption, right from the harnessing of steam as a power source to the dawn of information technology. The next wave of disruption is here – powered by automation and geared by artificial intelligence. As the drumbeats of technological advancements coupled with digitization grow larger, firms will need to develop strategies to survive this new era. 

As firms are turning increasing competitive while vying for talent, there is no dearth of opportunities for the new generation of professionals. However, the manufacturing sector is not always viewed as the most lucrative career avenue by millennials. The memories of mass lay-offs from yesteryears have tarnished the image of manufacturing as a platform to kick-start careers for many. This has led to a growing gap between the available and the desired skills required in the current competitive market. The biggest challenge for manufacturing organizations in this era of digital transformation isn’t technology, it’s people. It is imperative for leaders across organizations to comprehend the importance of this part of the equation while revisiting and revamping their corporate strategies to survive this wave of change. A single cookie-cutter solution is not available to address these challenges. The primary aim at this point is to get ahead and conceptualize, develop and implement policies, systems, and processes by looking through the lens of a new set of conditions and circumstances.

Technological developments are not only expanding the skill gap by increasing the demand for new skills, but it is also shortening the shelf life of existing skills. There also arises the need for investment in continuous learning and development within organizations. Adding to this complexity are the demographic changes across the globe that will proliferate the challenge of finding and retaining the workforce for tomorrow. Despite these aggressive challenges, only a few companies have dipped their toes into these new waters and implemented forward-thinking strategies. Companies are trying to stretch their horizons to stay ahead of this shockwave.

Talent search in the manufacturing industry is going to be revolutionized in the next five years, with these trends to gain prominence in the coming days.

Proactive hiring strategies using AI

Artificial intelligence will definitely make the process of hiring more transparent and efficient. Manufacturing firms will collaborate with digital service providers to accelerate the process of acquiring talent proactively with creative solutions to bridge talent gaps including hiring people who are not necessarily prepared for a career in manufacturing but are tech-savvy and could prove to be an asset for the company.

Attracting people with STEM background

Today, the manufacturing industry is in dire need of quality human capital more than ever before to cater to the challenges brought on by globalization, tech innovation, and automation. To support these advancements, manufacturers will attract talent with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) skills that would help bridge the skill gap. The demand for these skill sets is rising in other sectors as well and since the manufacturing sector is not always seen as the ideal launch pad by young professionals, agile organizations will expand their talent search by doing outreach programs with undergrad and grad schools. By connecting with students while they are still in school, organizations can aid in changing the perception of manufacturing among these young minds. 

Effective Knowledge Management

Emerging economies like India have developed skill challenges with the rapid growth of the young population. The loss of experienced and seasoned workers will reshape the foundation of many industrial organizations as it also includes loss of intellectual capital and institutional knowledge. Firms will find innovative and seamless ways to ensure a smooth transition from one generation to another. The people function teams in organizations will partner with the line managers to address this challenge and nip it in bud by designing and implementing smart and effective knowledge management policies including the maintenance of knowledge repositories, cross-generational mentorship programs, and on-the-job training modules.

Investment in Continuous Learning

The whole wave of digital transformation in companies will require considerable investment in people in terms of learning and development. By providing access to learning opportunities, incumbent workers will prove adept at integrating new technologies relevant to them and this will enable companies to adopt the emerging trends globally without missing a beat. While assessing new hires, the talent acquisition specialists will not only consider the current skills but also the ability to learn and evolve in today’s fast-changing environments. Investments in internship programs will increase to infuse new mindsets into the system, train them for particular skills and introduce them to the company culture.

Focus on Employee Value Proposition

Corporate cultures cannot be overhauled in one night. With the war for talent growing fiercer, employer branding – focusing on employee experience and engagement – has become crucial. Companies will compete for smart resources with their brand repertoire. Hence, people partners in organizations will work with the senior leadership to re-evaluate their employee value propositions to attract and retain the most skilled and educated workers before the next wave of hiring hits.

Workforce Analytics

With the emergence of big data and people analytics, measuring metrics such as productivity, efficiency, etc. will become far more convenient. With the aid of data and analytics, people functions will analyze and assess the talent gaps by comparing workforce needs versus the existing skill sets.

With the digitization of everything and the next-gen genomics at the doorstep, the road ahead is bogged with challenges. In order to survive and sustain, organizations need to adopt a ‘fail-fast’ and ‘succeed-faster mentality’, which will expose them to a faster learning curve and steer them towards the path of success.  

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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