Workforce Development / Industrial Training / Changing Workforce / Influential Women in Manufacturing

Plant Services 2019 Workforce Survey: A view from the outside

By Christine LaFave Grace, managing editor

Plant Services asked a handful of thought leaders in industry for their take on some key findings from the 2019 Plant Services Workforce Survey. Following are the perspectives they shared.

Keith Barr, president and CEO, Leading2Lean:
“Manufacturing I think is focused on developing their brand through advertising. What needs to shift is…from advertising brand-based things to more recruiting and cultural-based things. People want to be part of a community; they want to be part of an innovative, creative team; they want to work with the latest technology. Those things all exist in manufacturing. (Manufacturers) need to position that and message that a little more aggressively. They also need to go where the military goes—they spend a lot of time in local high schools; it’s a very localized effort. Manufacturing can learn a lot from that.” 

Leah Friberg, former global head of communications for cloud SaaS and hardware at Fluke Corp.; currently senior strategist at Destrier Communications
“This data screams change from within as well as growth opportunity in new directions. The tension between what is being asked of these professionals vs. what they want and expect is high. It’s not an impossible situation; these folks are clearly interested in career opportunities and more-satisfying work. What’s trickier is the younger generation’s dissatisfaction with corporate culture; corporate structures are slow to change (the exception being those who adopt Industry 4.0 methodologies). I feel the existing manufacturing sector is made vulnerable by the number of Millennials poised to leave, and I am curious about whether new-form manufacturing (B2B2C, leveraged supply chain, 3D-print-based production, industrial services) can be ready soon enough to take advantage of them. With the majority of recipients unthreatened by automation (Editor’s note: 70% of respondents said they don’t have concern that automation will materially reduce their role/responsibilities), I also wonder if perhaps this is a more highly skilled cross-section who have become accustomed to change; that would imply readiness for continued technological advancement. If traditional manufacturers apply technology updates quickly and thoughtfully such that jobs do become rapidly more interesting, rewarding, and more highly compensated, then the trajectories could align. May we live in interesting times!”

Aneesa Muthana, president, CEO and co-owner, Pioneer Service Inc.:
“As manufacturing leaders, it is our responsibility to promote the industry to groups that often aren’t naturally inclined to choose manufacturing as their career, especially women. This will help close the labor gap. From the outside looking in, it’s still a male-dominated industry, where men outnumber women by more than 3 to 1. Successful women have a responsibility to give back to the industry. If we have a seat at the table, it’s on us to represent the industry in the best possible way and break barriers for everyone, regardless of their ethnicity, background, age, or gender.

I went through a transition from old manufacturing to new modern manufacturing, implementing automations and new software, including IIoT. It wasn’t easy, but I’m happy to report we’ve been successful. As part of our continuous improvement efforts, training is part of our culture and is provided to anyone who needs it and is willing to learn.”

Cheryl Thompson, formerly of Ford Motor Co.; founder, the Center for Automotive Diversity, Inclusion and Advancement; 2019 Influential Women in Manufacturing honoree:
“I believe women, Millennials and technology are bringing our industry opportunities to impact the two key pieces of data in this study that stood out to me: The share of organizations concerned about finding skilled workers, and 80% of millennials reporting that dissatisfaction with corporate culture was the top factor affecting their personal decision to stay or go.

First, we have an untapped talent pool in women – there is a huge opportunity to invite more women to the table and factory floor at all levels. However, we will need to make our cultures more welcoming and inclusive to sustain the technical skill base they help us build. Increased gender balance in leadership is critical to creating and sustaining cultures where everyone can feel like they belong, contribute at their highest level and feel valued.

Second, Millennials are demanding improved workplace cultures and are voting with their feet. They are not accepting poor leadership behavior that previous generations did. We are shifting from the command-and-control leadership style to a coaching style. Millennials are now becoming leaders and tend to lead in a more collaborative and inclusive way. 

The adoption of technology will lessen the need for long hours on the factory floor, and who better to help us implement Manufacturing 4.0 than Millennials! I personally believe women, Millennials and technology are the keys to driving our industry to success and sustainability.”

Tony D'Avino, talent optimization strategist:
"What really stands out to me is the challenge brought on by evolving roles and responsibilities. Nailing the success profile for these will be incredibly important to ensure a good job fit. Retraining and upskilling are certainly important, but leaders must also identify the desired behavioral and cognitive elements of the new role."

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