Technology is important, but the real lynchpin of digital transformation will always be people, who are both its biggest help and hindrance.
During transformative periods, it is perfectly normal for employees to wonder:
- How is this going to impact me and my co-workers?
- How will my job change because of this transformation?
- Do I have the right skills to succeed when it comes?
- Will my employer help me learn?
For manufacturers to address these multi-pronged questions, they need to do two things swiftly. The first is communicating digital transformation to increase employee engagement. The second is directing workforce planning for the new reality.
Whether you have 10 or 150,000 employees, communication is crucial to avoid fear and resistance to change. Employees need to be on board for the digital transformation journey, or it will fail before it even begins. Business leaders should aim to get the perspective of cross-functional teams that may be able to highlight outstanding concerns early on, or bring new issues to the table. Questions that should look to be answered clearly are basic ones such as:
- Why is this happening?
- What are the new technologies that will be introduced to our daily work?
- What impact will they have?
- What is the timeline?
- How will the company prepare employees for upcoming changes?
Workforce planning is also arguably more important than ever, particularly given how quickly and suddenly the world is now changing. Rather than becoming completely reactive, business leaders should look to mobilise and prepare their workers, considering what technologies they’ll use and what skills will be needed for workers and the business to thrive. Whether this entails building bespoke programmes to train employees, or partnering with educational organisations to deliver online training sessions, developing employees’ skills helps build a better workplace culture in the short term, and can future-proof the company in the long term.
3. Reducing Investment Risk
Success has often depended on businesses taking proactive measures rather than responding reactively to situational forces, but in the age of COVID-19, maintaining a proactive mindset has become increasingly difficult. In order to claim a position in the forefront of the market, a manufacturer must anticipate and be well prepared for market changes long before they happen, but without some investment into the future, however uncertain it looks, this strategy will be elusive to most.
Manufacturers should stop and consider what its business specialisms are and what it wants to achieve from new technology and transformation before embarking on any costly investments. Whereas in the past, manufacturers may have learned from what their competitors were doing, the new normal has made it apparent that there are no ‘right’ answers, and that every company must act based on its own unique set of circumstances. In a world where nothing is certain, new investments and new technology also needs to be tested as thoroughly as possible before any capital is spent. This will not only reduce upfront costs for businesses but will also enable a steadier approach to transformation – in the long run, a more sustainable approach.
Where to next?
As the manufacturing industry continues to evolve, digital transformation will continue to be a top priority for global and European manufacturers. In these uncertain times, the best advice I can give to any business leaders in this field is to ensure that they work with partners who truly understand them and their business, so that can make sure they are making the right decisions and future-proofing their company for years to come.
Plan the next steps on your digital transformation journey from the Management Perspectives online hub. From here, you can find webinars, blogs, podcasts, videos, newsletters and more to guide you into the future of smart manufacturing.