Guest Post by Kathleen Brenk
Because I often feel disconnected from these ‘solutions.’
Hacking HR is about the convergence of people and tech, and HR’s role. Often, when we talk about technology in the workplace, we think about remote workers or tech companies or shiny corporate offices. Yet, today, 12.4 million Americans are working in manufacturing. That is up 25,000 from last year and up almost one million from 2010.
I think about it a lot because I work for a mid-size manufacturer. I love seeing a physical product made. There’s something about it. Maybe it’s my Pennsylvania upbringing. Maybe it was finding my HR sea legs in residential construction or working in medical device manufacturing. The draw absolutely has something to do with the workforce.
So, how can tech support these dedicated people who don’t sit in front of a screen all day?
We are working on this for our organization in a number of ways every day. We have phone apps for safety walks and quality checks. I have a dedicated travel budget, so other leaders and I can visit our Iowa plant to have real relationships. I firmly believe that no amount of technology replaces real-life face time.
What are other manufacturers doing?
- A large metal stamping company in Ohio has touchscreens as a source of company communication. The screen measures touch so the HR team can gauge interest and timing
- Sara Lee gets their HR reps out to all their sites at least monthly
- S&W has invested in apps for employee’s cell phones to keep them informed and updated
- Sony’s US manufacturing sites have quarterly C-level lunches
- Nissan does a virtual quality check each month across their sites
- An optics manufacturer uses a “how was your day” technology tool by the time clock to gauge employees mood–it can compare emotional data against volume and machine downtime
I imagine we have all read about, and maybe personally experiencing, the middle-skill gap within our workplace. Retail, Hospitality, Construction, and Manufacturing. Each of these industries has unique challenges that are frankly not present in a software shop or a financial services firm. It can be tough to read about all these amazing flexible workplaces, remote workers, and tech solutions that you know are not the solution for your workforce.
So what can we, the middle-skill employer, do?
- Commit to trying one thing you thought wouldn’t work.
- Walk the floor. I know. It’s not tech, and it’s not new, but nothing replaces face-time.
- Spotlight wins. Write about and share your successes so we can all learn.
And finally, know you are not alone.
I bet we all have the same reaction when we read about the gig economy and the virtual workplace. Virtual employees can’t produce a product or serve a meal or install electrical. Our workforce is changing too, in different ways. We must listen and provide the right tools to make work, well… work.
About the Author
Kathleen Brenk is the VP of Human Resources at TruStile Doors–a $90M revenue, 500employee custom door manufacturer. She previously served as Director of Implementation with CareerWise Colorado, building a groundbreaking system of youth apprenticeship. Past leadership roles include CHRO at Recondo Technology, VP of People & Culture at Trust Company of America, and integration lead at Baxter Healthcare.
Kathleen is an HR leader that believes in creative, strategic solutions and shaking up past practices to get things done smarter and faster. She is a Six Sigma greenbelt who brings a unique operational skill set to engaging people practices.