Finding new workers remains a challenge, and as they expand their recruitment programs.
This year, DeepHow has attended some of the top manufacturing trade shows — and there are still one or two more on the calendar. If you’re attending FABTECH in Atlanta (November 8–10), we hope to see you there.
Recently, the DeepHow crew hosted a booth at the IMTS show in Chicago. We caught up with Steve Zubrzycki of our customer success team to get his first-hand impressions of DeepHow’s presence at this gigantic show.
“Manufacturers should assess their current training programs and align them with today’s workforce realities.”
How would you characterize the attendees at this show?
SZ: IMTS is the largest manufacturing trade show in North America. It’s held in even-numbered years and, before COVID, attracted as many as 130K visitors. Due to the pandemic, this year's event was the first show after a four-year break, and it certainly seemed very busy.
Based on the folks we met at our booth, we saw a breakdown of roughly a 30:70 ratio of large enterprises to SMBs. But what’s really interesting is that both large enterprises and smaller manufacturing shops are all managing their way through very similar macro issues and looking to modern training technology to address these challenges.
What sorts of challenges are they facing right now?
SZ: The first is a massive shortage of skilled labor. Some companies are working with recruiting firms that are expanding their search radius to as far as an hour’s commute. On top of that, they’re adding non-technical candidates to the mix —people with very little or no experience working in a manufacturing environment— in order to have a good pool of candidates.
Which means that workforce readiness is now a real issue for these employers. If you’re looking to hire people from, say, a retail background, then you’ll need to quickly train them in everything from shop floor EHS basics to technical machine set-up training.
Compounding this problem is that many of their skilled workers with the deep technical know-how are no longer there to help. One visitor shared that once COVID hit, about half of their experts retired almost immediately or shortly thereafter. And the half that remained were forced to work overtime in order to make up for that lack of personnel. And then half of those people ended up quitting over the course of the really intense COVID period. That’s a huge brain drain.
Which manufacturers should upgrade their training?
SZ: Across the board, manufacturers should assess their current training programs and align them with today’s workforce realities. They may find that the training methods that have worked for the past decade —such as handing someone a written SOP and expecting them to read it, learn it, and then go do it— are simply not effective for these new recruits.
Younger generations, especially, have a low tolerance of these more traditional approaches, which somewhat explains why so many of these companies are seeing new hires walk away from the job on the first day.
What younger workers are expecting —and to some extent people in their 30s and 40s as well— is to learn at their own pace with a fresh-looking video. For these generations, video is their preferred way of learning, and so expecting them to acquire new skills using paper and classrooms is a real stretch.
What we’re seeing is that many manufacturers aren't equipped for the transition to digital, self-paced training, especially small to medium-sized businesses. Often, they haven’t even digitized their SOPs. Larger manufacturers, on the other hand, may have made the jump to digital training assets, but even they struggle to quickly deploy video skills training for new hires. Today, there's still a lot of reliance on job shadowing and classroom instruction, which again puts a strain on internal resources.
“Many manufacturers aren't equipped for the transition to digital, self-paced training, especially small to medium-sized businesses.”
How are manufacturers responding to the need for more training?
SZ: They are tapping experienced workers because they represent a deep pool of knowledge. Smaller manufacturers may not have a ‘learning and development’ department. So, maybe they don't have trainers, but they do have experts who have been working there for 30 years.
We saw plenty of older, more experienced people walk by our booth, and we'd ask them, “Hey, do you have workforce readiness challenges?”
They would just laugh and say, “Of course we do, who doesn't?”
And after you talk with them for a couple minutes, you realize these people care very deeply about their involvement with the organization that they've dedicated decades of their lives to. For example, the resident expert on a specific machine, or the maintenance manager who knows how to fix every single machine in the plant.
Some told us that they’re approaching retirement, and they want to give something back and leave something behind. They’ve been delaying their retirement for years because they don't feel like the plant can go on without them very effectively. Or, if they do retire, some are returning as higher-paid consultants for those companies to help out.
The DeepHow platform is just perfect for these situations, because it can capture all that know-how and build a library of skills videos so that new hires can benefit from all that expertise.
“No one likes delivering the same training 52 times a year. By capturing that training and turning it into an easily digestible set of courseware videos, we can help them offload a lot of this.”
Beyond the skills-specific training, where else can DeepHow assist?
SZ: We see a big opportunity to help manufacturers with their environmental health and safety programs. All new hires must go through this and some companies are doing these trainings every week, sometimes multiple days per week. No one likes delivering the same training 52 times a year.
Again, by capturing that training and turning it into an easily digestible set of courseware videos, we can help them offload a lot of this repetitive training so that their internal EHS people can focus on more strategic tasks.
What happens next is interesting. If a new hire experiences DeepHow-based EHS training from Day One, they are becoming habituated to this new way of learning. So, when they need additional training on the shop floor, they can access it instantly from their account and also see the breadth of additional available training.
So that means change management becomes a lot easier. The company is no longer deploying different training approaches around the plant, but using the same DeepHow platform whenever someone needs to learn how to do something new. This provides a familiar training foundation to build an agile workforce that can adapt to the forces of a changing economy.