Heading into 2020, manufacturing organizations knew they would have to combat the persistent skills gap, which was already afflicting the industry. In fact, manufacturers were set to spend $26.2 billion on internal and external training initiatives for new and existing employees in 2020 to combat the shortage of available workers, according to a January 2020 report by the Manufacturing Institute.
Then the virus hit, further straining the industry. As supply-chain disruptions and risk mitigation efforts were quickly implemented, many of the integral organizations across the supply chain found themselves in the predicament of increased production and reduced capacity levels.
As production is predicted to continue to increase, and facility capacity levels expected to remain below 100%, manufacturers will need to improve cross-training efforts. At the same time, new workplace safety policies will impact the manufacturing processes, which will further challenge the ability to optimize efficiency and productivity. To put it simply, workers will need to learn multiple tasks and perform them in a safe manner, incorporating new social distancing policies into the work environment. Training is critical to integrating the latest safety policies while at the same time maintaining productivity and efficiency.
This will ensure their employees are adequately reskilled, retrained, and recertified to take on multiple roles until facilities can once again operate at total capacity. Unfortunately, due to the diverse nature of the deskless workforce within the manufacturing and industrial industries, many lack have immediate access to learning and development methods that are often easily accessible to other sectors.
While most manufacturing training is traditionally conducted using large in-person settings, organizations have begun training their employees virtually throughout the pandemic. Virtual learning management systems provide the flexibility and agility needed to meet the training and compliance certifications that workers will need for the foreseeable future. The systems also address social-distancing requirements and the adoption of staggered shifts, increasing costs for in-person training efforts.
As we enter the next normal, it becomes mission-critical to offer education programs to keep employees in compliance, safe and engaged, to boost productivity and reduce turnover. By employing learning and development software, organizations can create customizable learning programs tailored to match any manufacturing facility's business skills, software training, and compliance requirements.
Using on-demand training tools, manufacturing employees are better equipped to stay updated on new policies and the latest technologies and regulations. Learning and development tools provide a hassle-free way for employees to conduct training independently and at their own pace. Key system considerations for companies to seek out in order to to support learning and development initiatives include:
Virtual training shouldn’t be based solely on employees utilizing a computer or device and haphazardly clicking through content. Instead, employees should be kept engaged throughout the process by appealing content from multiple sources, offering enjoyable subject matter and providing virtual “high-fives” for correct answers on knowledge tests and quizzes.
In addition to interactive content, employers can utilize monitoring and measurement tools to maintain employee pace, progress, engagement, and aptitude in the learning sessions. This enables them to take proactive measures at the individual level to ensure that employees are reskilled appropriately for their return to work. Providing employees with feedback and a vast library of training content from various vendors will further assist users with a deeper understanding, resulting in better retention of the course content.
To prepare an employee for new technology at the worksite, employers can begin the training process virtually. This allows everyone to save time when it comes to hands-on training, since employees will already have grasped the basics. For example, the virtual training could be completed onsite using communal tablets in a dedicated learning annex. This will improve access to training for employees who don’t have a compatible smart device or their own necessary technologies. To complete the in-person portion of the training, employees should follow best practices, including personal protective equipment, social distancing, temperature checks, and various touchless technologies to reduce the potential of viral spread.
Reskilling and upskilling employees are the most cost-effective and time-efficient solutions for boosting productivity, while allowing manufacturers to be more profitable in the long run. By ensuring that employees have the knowledge to take on multiple roles and responsibilities, organizations can quickly fill unplanned absences while minimizing production. By implementing these training tips, organizations can efficiently train their workers to ensure that certified employees are on every shift to reduce compliance issues.
Joe Palladino is senior solutions consultant at Ascentis.
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