Since the quality of life and its expectancy are increasing day by day, it also means a higher number of people working for longer, right? Lack of workforce should not be a problem, right? Well – wrong.
Many people have been retiring earlier. Fewer people are also joining the working population due to dwindling birth rates in developed countries and significant focus on education before starting a career.
And industries such as manufacturing and industrial production have also been suffering from skill gaps – as experienced workers are retiring, there is no one to replace them.
The silver tsunami
The phenomenon describing the high retirement rate and aging workforce has also been called the “silver tsunami.” It is estimated that in the US, nearly a quarter of manufacturing workers are over 55 years old.
As they are getting closer to retirement, the tribal knowledge they have accumulated over decades might get lost, making it harder to train new employees and maintain production levels.
Generally, the younger generations tend to “job hop” if underappreciated and when the employer fails to motivate them or grant them a certain level of responsibility. Interesting employee appreciation gifts can be beneficial for highlighting the importance of employee recognition and motivation.
In addition, manufacturing and similar fields struggle significantly more with appealing to new job-seeking applicants, as their public perception is outdated and misleading.
But being fast-growing fields heavily influenced by Industry 4.0., their facilities are often the ones adhering to health and safety requirements to a T and using the newest technology. That is far from the stigma of manufacturing being hazardous, dirty, or unstable due to increasing automation.
These obstacles can result in higher training costs, loss of tribal knowledge, and underwhelming production quality. So – what can an organization do to retain precious knowledge of experienced workers for generations to come?
Adopting new technology
Adopting new technologies to retain and share knowledge is one of the most straightforward ways to fight aging workforce challenges.
This usually means leveraging Industry 4.0 technology such as workforce knowledge software, utilizing augmented reality, and digitazing standardized work procedures.
Up until now, technical knowledge has been usually stored in complex manuals and bulky guides that technicians had to carry around and look into every time a problem occurred.
However, that does not reflect the current state of technology which can ensure lean operations and support workers’ needs. Especially “tribal” knowledge – covering practical know-how gained through on-site experience and accumulated wisdom – often goes undocumented.
Knowledge software serves as a platform that allows workers to document their tasks quickly, plus enables to provide feedback on work instructions to improve them.
It is essential to have a platform where you can store and maintain records of daily operations, but also update and improve on them when something new comes along – because it always does rather quickly. That is hard to do with physical manuals, but workforce knowledge software can be an easy fix.
Opportunity to learn
While capturing and storing the knowledge is important, it also must find its way to the workforce. On-the-job learning, for example, has been proven to cut down on passive classroom learning time and it increases retention of knowledge. Workers can learn through real-life use cases instead of reading complex diagrams from paper manuals.
They will be supported by various media such as images, animations, or videos that will keep them on track. Some solutions also enable to record work operations or troubleshooting, making it even easier to capture and replicate processes or maintenance again in the future.
Digital training solutions utilizing mobile devices and new technologies can help attract the generation that grew up with it. It allows them to learn and carry out tasks autonomously and take on responsibility, making their day-to-day more intuitive and engaging.
As the instructions are visual and easy to follow, it also minimizes issues concerning language barriers. However, don’t forget that older workers may need training as well.
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