27 January 2021

5 simple ways to increase employee use of technology in the manufacturing sector

Man in a manufacturing workplace

Technology adoption, and helping employees to realise the many benefits it can bring isn’t always an easy task in the manufacturing sector.

There are, however, some simple and easy strategies that can be used to increase employee use of technology and ultimately speed up the pace of digital transformation in your manufacturing business.

1. Identifying product champions 

There’s no replacement for a product technology champion who has a deep knowledge, excitement and passion for a product. They equip employees with the information they need to know, and achieve a wider buy-in to ensure employees understand the impact and benefits it brings. By identifying and nurturing product champions in different areas and locations of your business, employees will know who to approach with questions, queries or worries. This is especially important in large manufacturing businesses, who may have up to thirty different sites.

Having those key champions accessible to your whole workforce will help employees feel supported in adopting new technology. However, as well as identifying those product champions, it’s essential that the role is taken seriously within the organisation and they’re given the dedicated time to make it a success. Providing a toolkit they can use including communication materials, training tools and check list sheets, will help champions to make a wide and measurable impact in your manufacturing business. 

2. Management support and dedicated time for development 

Without the support of a manager and the time made available to learn and get up to speed with technology, it’s unlikely that employees will feel they have the space available to upskill themselves and embrace new technologies. In a Health and Wellbeing Report published by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in March 2020, it was put forward that the pre-requisites for success in this area were ensuring that wellbeing and development are a priority for the senior management team and ensuring that managers build healthy relationships with their teams. Perhaps most importantly, it was noted that managers need to have the courage and competence to support their people’s needs.

The report findings identified that the two top causes of stress at work are heavy workloads and an ineffective management style. In the context of the manufacturing sector and encouraging employees to embrace and utilise technology, managers need to make time to understand their teams and development requirements providing the space and permission for employees to upskill in these areas. 

3. Making the most of training tools 

Investing in and making the most of training platforms and tools to upskill your workforce is a crucial area in increasing employee use of technology. Training platforms  that enable you to create content like videos and documents quickly and distribute them easily will be an essential part of the product champion toolkit. With a training hub and information, employees who are sometimes slower and more hesitant to adopt technology will have a bank of useful and digestible information to dip into and use to remind themselves of how to complete different actions. Creating one central area that’s easily accessible and tailored to different roles and needs will increase the confidence of your employees and ultimately how much they utilise technology in your business. 

4. Understanding your people and what makes them tick 

Everyone is different and everyone learns differently – this must be recognised, respected and also celebrated! Taking time to understand your employees and the ways in which they learn will help not only to build your working relationship but also ensure you can support them in the best possible way. Whilst one employee might find a quick video helps them get to grips with a particular process, another employee might find a discussion with a colleague much more helpful.

Different learning styles were defined and developed by Peter Honey and Alan Mumford who identified four distinct learning styles. ‘Activists’, they found, are people who learn by doing, so activities such as group discussions, role play, competitions or problem-solving suits them well. The second style defined by Honey and Mumford was the ‘Theorist’. These learners like to understand the theory behind actions and like to see models, concepts and facts in order to engage well with the subject matter.

Thirdly, there’s the ‘Pragmatist’ who needs to see how what they’ve learnt can be applied to the real world. Using case studies, having discussions as well as time to think about applying the subject in a real-life situation suits this learner well. Lastly, there’s the ‘Reflector’ who learns best by observing and thinking about what they’ve learnt. These learners won’t get into the thick of a big group discussion but will instead take the time to think about what they’ve learnt and have discussions on a smaller scale to cement their knowledge.

There’s lots to consider when thinking about how to support your employees with their development. But in short, a great starting point when looking to support your employees in this area is just to ask. A quick conversation around how you can best support them and the most successful ways in which they will learn will lay the foundations for their successful future development. 

5. Increasing access to technology 

Due to the nature of work, employees in manufacturing businesses often don’t have access to a work mobile or laptop, creating a barrier between employees and becoming more technologically savvy. In order to bridge this gap, many manufacturing businesses have invested in laptop stations in communal areas of the business which employees without access to technology can use.

David Longstaffe, Business Development Manager at MHR, has suggested this strategy for a number of businesses in the industry and has said that it’s made a notable difference in employees gaining confidence in using technology and using it more frequently. If employees do ever need to complete small tasks outside of working hours, such as booking holiday or checking their payslips, mobile friendly software that will give employees that flexibility would be another easy way to help increase employee accessibility and use of technology. 

We’re here to help! 

In any business it’s crucial to ensure that all your employees are fully engaged in the technology used in your organisation to enable a successful digital transformation. This is particularly important in manufacturing when the market moves and changes at such pace. Achieving efficiencies and streamlining processes through technology is paramount, and this can only be achieved if all your employees are onboard. At MHR, we can help in a number of ways, whether it’s through providing a market-leading training platform or software and services that serve the specific needs of the manufacturing sector. 

Katie Buckingham

Katie Buckingham

Field Marketing Manager at MHR. 

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