3 ways digital technology can overcome staff shortages
The past two years have been a tumultuous time in the talent market.
Before the pandemic, low unemployment nationwide made hiring and retaining the right people a challenge for manufacturers. Then, as the pandemic pushed unemployment to an all-time high of 14.8% – the highest monthly rate on record – the market was inundated with applicants at a time when health concerns made it unsafe for anyone to come to work even if he wanted to.
Now, even as workplaces reopen, extended unemployment benefits and lingering fears of coronavirus are preventing many people from entering the workforce. This means manufacturers are still struggling to hire, while facing higher turnover and absenteeism linked to COVID-19 quarantines and family challenges.
While most indicators show that we are turning the economic page, staffing will remain a challenge as competition for talent intensifies and the number of open positions creates a market of job seekers. . To overcome staff shortages, manufacturers must embrace digital technologies to increase productivity and capacity. Here are 3 strategies that can help you.
1. Automation of processes. Digital automation solutions can help you do more with fewer resources by streamlining workflows and eliminating redundancies and mundane tasks. And it can help reduce the risk of burnout, stress, and low morale that can lead to employee churn by lightening the load on existing staff.
For example, the implementation of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technologies to monitor equipment and processes can reduce the need for human monitoring. Or, automating workflows like maintenance requests or task tracking can help get things done while eliminating manual or redundant processes that are time consuming and tedious. Both of these can increase HR efficiency by allowing staff to focus on critical tasks.
While automation may require a bit of investment, the potential ROI may be worth it by reducing the need for full-time labor and increasing productivity per hour by around 25%.
2. Adopt a digital KPI strategy. You can’t fix what you can’t see. Getting real-time visibility into what’s going on with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) can give you a window into a whole world of opportunities to optimize workflows and improve productivity. Implementing a digital KPI management strategy can inform key metrics from absenteeism to material flow and cycle times and help you understand both operational and individual capacity.
By establishing a baseline, setting a baseline or goal, and then monitoring performance as you make adjustments, a digital KPI strategy will help you analyze what works and what doesn’t. It can also help identify the root causes of process inefficiencies, which may arise earlier or later in the process than you originally thought. By creating this “digital thread” of information, you now have hard evidence to identify problems and the ability to simulate solutions before fully committing to changes that may not work.
3. Digitize onboarding and training. When talent is scarce, it is imperative to speed up the process of upgrading and on-boarding staff as quickly as possible. Start by assessing the talents and skills you already have to leverage current resources. Take a talent inventory and create a database of who can do what tasks or fill specific roles. Then you can compare this to your current training programs to identify gaps, add new programs, or train existing staff.
Then, implement digital training solutions that allow staff to access learning anytime, anywhere to help them learn new, applicable skills as easily as possible. With digital learning management solutions, employees can learn at their own pace and even at their own pace. You can even incorporate video analysis recordings of work in progress to demonstrate proper procedures.
This can be particularly useful for employees who are on time off in mandatory quarantine with asymptomatic COVID-19 or direct exposure without disease. By giving staff access to distance learning options, they can use the downtime to upgrade or train. This not only allows you to move staff to cover deficits once they are cleared to return to work, but also gives employees a chance to build their own careers, which can fuel your leadership pipeline.
Although onboarding and training is only the first step, the digitization of HR is the start of a cultural change. After all, HR is the first contact in an organization. Integrating technology and analytics into talent acquisition to forecast workforce needs and skills gaps reduces the panic button businesses hit far too often and far too late .
While staff shortages can be particularly painful right now, the reality is that preparing for the natural ebbs and flows of the economy and the workforce is always a smart strategy. The implementation of digital technologies can help manufacturers optimize their operations and amplify efficiency to overcome staff shortages now and in the future.
Shannon Gabriel is Managing Director of Leadership Solutions at Dploy / TBM Consulting Group.