The manufacturing industry is in the midst of a major boom. According to a survey by the National Association of Manufacturers, the industry is slated for significant growth this year as business leaders predict 2.3 percent growth in full-time employment. This is an impressive reversal in job growth since this figure was negative this time last year. In addition, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that more manufacturing outfits brought on new workers last March than at any point since early 2008 at the front-end of the Great Recession.
While this is phenomenal news from an economic standpoint, many manufacturing and logistics employers are struggling to onboard increasingly large number of new employees simultaneously. According to the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, onboarding a new recruit typically involves more than 65 training hours and two months for the employee to reach full productivity. On top of that, the average cost of adding a new employee is around $4,000, and this amount is typically higher in manufacturing due to the extensive training necessary across different sites and roles.
With the number of new manufacturing employees on the rise — many of which may have little to no experience in the industry — it’s critical for employers to train these individuals quickly and efficiently to keep up with output demand. Here are three ways manufacturing and logistics managers can leverage digital learning experience solutions to streamline the onboarding process and expand new hires’ skillsets:
Provide training materials as soon as new employees show up
When onboarding new employees in the manufacturing sector, training is an expensive necessity. Employee engagement platforms fill gaps in existing systems and make this information easier to deploy — especially to hundreds or thousands of workers on the factory floor.
Instead of requiring new employees to attend hours-long training sessions, lead by an onboarding specialist or by senior leadership, before their real shifts start, employers can use a digital workplace platform to distribute these materials to employees via personal mobile devices or tablets while only relying on managers to guide and clarify questions. They can also tailor the training material to specific audiences based on profile qualifiers, such as those without previous experience working in a warehouse. Digital curriculum allows new employees to complete the necessary training, without wasting hours of instruction on skills they already know. This way, new hires can be onboarded at a lower cost with more efficiency.
Provide on-demand training videos and modules to create an agile workforce
Because visual training and demonstrations are inherent in the manufacturing sector, traditional training methods like paper manuals in binders aren’t sufficient. However, at the same time, today’s managers don’t have time to provide in-person demonstrations for hundreds of new employees, especially when most of them work at different times. Training videos allow new employees to access demonstrations on-demand through their mobile device and to easily reference this information as it is needed.
In addition, providing videos and modules for a variety of skills and roles will help create a more agile workforce and combat employee turnover. For example, a large retailer with 15,000 employees in their logistics department recently saw high turnover rates due to inconsistent work hours. To address this, they deployed a digital workplace platform which gave employees the option to complete additional training modules and gain certification to work in multiple areas, including store recovery, forklift operation, and security. The newfound agility increased employee engagement and ultimately, retention. An agile workforce allows managers to source from within and leverage preexisting employees who want to pick up additional hours.
Unify messaging and communication across all employees
A common issue among manufacturers, especially those onboarding hundreds of employees at time, is a lack of communication and miscommunication. Historically, the sector has relied on physical signage in break rooms to communicate safety standards, changes to established procedures, or social updates. A WorkJam study found that, among employers who allow employees to swap shifts, almost half use paper to communicate requests to trade shifts in a break room or other communal area. Additionally, because certain employees’ and managers’ schedules never overlap due to differing shifts, they may be receiving or delivering different company messaging, leading to confusion and overall disengagement.
While using physical signage to communicate with employees may have worked in the past when it was the only option, today’s manufacturing employees expect easily accessible channels of communication not only with their supervisors, but with their co-workers as well. With digital workplace platforms, employers can provide targeted coaching messages, employee surveys, and social updates that is accessible to all employees both in and out of the plant.
When it comes to onboarding on a large scale, training and communication are co-dependent. Manufacturing employers can no longer hand a new hire a manual, hold countless in-person training sessions, and expect employees to feel engaged. The new on-demand learning experience not only fulfills employees’ increasing expectations for digital tools at their fingertips, but also helps cultivate an agile, engaged workforce with a positive ROI.
Will Eadie is the VP of Sales and Strategy at WorkJam.