I have worked in manufacturing as an hourly worker and alongside hourly workers. Despite spending many years in management among some who held condescending views of them, I’ve found most hourly workers to be intelligent, hard working, and creative. Companies that have discovered how to build teams of “knowledge” workers and “hourly” workers have discovered rewards from increased productivity, reduced scrap, improved quality, and better relationships.

Although I seldom write on human resources, a white paper found its way to me called Human Resources in Supply Chain & Manufacturing: How Industry 4.0 Will Play Out. Authored by insiders from General Motors, Whirlpool, Alcoa, General Mills, and the Boston Consulting Group, this forecast and trend report for HR professionals in the manufacturing and supply chain industry contains insights and advice.

The authors of the paper have developed a technology to meet the demand for ways to foster communication between employer and employee. The company, TeamSense, was acquired by Fortive last year.

The authors are Sheila Stafford, a mechanical engineer who has developed a technology to systemize COVID-19 symptom tracking and is currently CEO of TeamSense, Alison Teegarden, a graduate of Stanford, Peking University and the Harvard School of Business, who developed a mobile text tool while at Pioneer Square Labs, and Eric Welke, a supply chain expert from Alcoa, General Mills and Yoplait.

TeamSense makes a human resources technology that is used by the manufacturing industry to revolutionize communications between deskless workers and their employers. The use of technology was utilized, specifically to close a communications chasm that currently exists between teams of hourly workers and their employers.

Industry 4.0 is upon us, yet 90% of funding for technology innovation ignores 80% of the global workforce, the hourly makers of the manufacturing industry. The shift toward smart factories, combined with the pandemic and labor challenges, has created a new blue ocean of opportunity for technology innovation to impact the manufacturing industry and the hourly workers who make it run. Specifically, there are many human resources processes in this industry in need of a next generation upgrade. Manufacturers need updated tools to attract and retain hourly talent and remain competitive in the future.

Despite it being a time in history when technology such as artificial intelligence has almost reached human levels of understanding, hourly workforces are often still being managed in antiquated ways. In 2021, supervisors are still making phone calls and leaving voicemails to call on / off team’s of 1000’s to 10,000’s of workers. Because hourly workers do not have corporate emails and some do not speak the same language as their employer, it’s not easy (or fast) to communicate with these teams. While it may seem unlikely, these practices persist in this industry.

There are many hourly worker processes that remain laborious, outdated and paper-intensive such as attendance, tracking COVID symptoms, sick days, onboarding, exiting and team announcements. Updated systems are needed to reach this population easily and quickly for emergencies and high stakes standard operating procedures, such as incident reporting. The opportunities that exist for technology to ease these burdens are endless, exciting and portend to skyrocket efficiencies for manufacturers.

The authors identify these six trends and offer advice to develop solutions. You can download the whitepaper and find the details.

  • Trend 1 — HR Tech to Enhance the Employee Experience
  • Trend 2 — “Anti” Technology and the Power Shift in the Employee/Employer Relationship (mobile phones)
  • Trend 3 — Employee-Centric Workplaces: The Art of Good Feelings and Retention
  • Trend 4 — Engaging and Retaining the Hourly Worker
  • Trend 5 — Meeting the Needs of the New Generations of Hourly Workers
  • Trend 6 — Talent Retention in a Post-Pandemic World
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