People have been moaning about Boomers leaving the workforce and a coming worker gap for 20 years. Perhaps the time has arrived? How is your hiring of young people going?

Now, I know that you can’t really evaluate each candidate by what marketing-designated generation they were born into. However, consider some statistics gathered by a data company who performed an analysis of TikTok and Google search data.

Few arenas of life reveal as much as youth sports does about—parents. I remember my own good times and, with much chagrin, my bad ones. Thirty-five years working as a referee in youth and high school soccer revealed the growing trend of “helicopter” parents who hovered over their kids to protect them and “snow plow” parents who tried to pave the way for them. If these results don’t reveal what happens to kids entering the workforce after experiencing life as the recipient of helicopter or snow plow parenting, I’ve lost the ability to observe and analyze.

Job Shift Shock is the most popular work trend with a total 1.7B TikTok views and nearly 121K monthly searches on Google. The trend leads the list as it describes the transition from initial excitement of beginning a new job to the disappointment of unexpected responsibilities.

Quiet Quitting ranks as the second most popular trend, having 1.1B views on TikTok and over 612.5K searches on Google. This trend’s place in the list is secured by the increasing cost of living and workers’ dissatisfaction with their salaries or job conditions.

I can think of few clearer signals about what happens to young people when they have always had someone there to smooth the way for them. I remember hiring a young man recently graduated from university. He wondered how long (a year or two?) before he would be in line to be president of the company.

So, how is your hiring going? Must you cope with these entrants? Can you screen them out?

Survey Finds Disconnect Between Frontline Workers and Management Regarding Productivity Impediments

This news came from a company called Beekeeper. It develops and supplies productivity enhancement systems for frontline, or “deskless” workers. They conducted a survey of 8,000 individuals including frontline workers, their managers, and executives to explore trends. Its 2024 Frontline Workforce Pulse Report released January 17 details several ways frontline businesses can improve the employee experience amid high inflation and increased rates of attrition.

The news is hardly surprising that managers and workers have different views. I found during my time in manufacturing and other pursuits that asking the people who do the work for ideas on what constrains them and what could be improved constitutes one of the best uses of time a manager can spend. If all you are hiring is bodies with hands, buy a robot. People can, and do, observe and think.

Anyway, check out a few details.

The report suggests a growing disconnect between frontline workers and management, leading to increased disengagement among frontline workers. This widespread disaffection has drastic economic consequences, including a projected $8.8 trillion in lost productivity and 40% to 50% of workers across frontline industries leaving their jobs for both improved work/life balance and compensation. 

“The pandemic may be in the rearview, but the problems it created for frontline workers haven’t gone anywhere,” said Cristian Grossmann, Beekeeper CEO and co-founder. “Turnover rates remain alarmingly high across industries, with frontline workers feeling overstressed, undervalued, and often unheard by management. As this year’s report makes abundantly clear, solving these persistent problems requires empowering frontline teams with technology that increases communication across the board — improving employee satisfaction, retention and productivity.”

Per the report, the daily challenges facing frontline workers have worsened significantly in the years since the pandemic. Inflation is a top-line concern, with nearly half of all workers (48%) citing wages falling behind inflation as their number-one source of stress. 

But as the report demonstrates, wages tell just one part of this story. Poor work/life balance has contributed just as significantly to the ongoing Great Migration. High turnover, chronically understaffed shifts, and a lack of shift scheduling flexibility all are leading frontline workers to feel overstressed and underappreciated. According to the report, in industries like hospitality and manufacturing the majority of those who leave do so for a better work/life balance, as opposed to higher pay.

The problems of modern frontline work go deeper than work/life balance, to the very nature of the work itself. Frontline workers are more motivated, and more productive, when they find their jobs engaging and fulfilling. According to the report, a friendly and fun environment is the number-one motivator for frontline workers, in addition to the satisfaction of finishing a job and the opportunities provided for ongoing learning and development. When asked where “positive manager feedback” ranks, managers put it at number two — while the frontline workers themselves put it at number seven. This is just one disconnect of many identified in the report.

Another notable disconnect: the majority of surveyed Head Office employees (52%) expected frontline workers to cite low morale as their number-one impediment to productivity, but only 15% of frontline workers actually felt this way. A lack of recognition, poor cross-team communication, and understaffed shifts matter much more. The report suggests that clogged lines of communication prevent frontline workers from feeling safe and fulfilled, and severely hurting productivity in the process.

At the heart of today’s worker/manager disconnect are inadequate communication and a lack of insights into frontline needs. Frontline workers and managers who engage in a continuous two-way conversation on everything from expectations and performance to perceived job safety and satisfaction create an environment of trust and mutual respect. Managers need to better understand their teams’ needs to be truly successful in their roles. 

Technology plays a significant role. Productivity tools that blend seamlessly into a worker’s daily routine can radically simplify complicated tasks such as onboarding, shift allocation, cross-team collaboration, and learning and development. Beekeeper’s mobile-first platform provides every worker with the tools required to sync effectively and efficiently with other teams, to reallocate shifts effortlessly, and to learn new and needed skills thoroughly and promptly. Bringing all communication into a single platform also establishes desperately needed lines of communication, and ensures that every worker feels that their voice is heard.

About Beekeeper

Beekeeper empowers frontline businesses and their workers with the digital solutions they need to do their best possible work. Founded in 2012, Beekeeper’s mobile-first platform was designed and built for deskless employees who — despite representing 80% of the global workforce — have been chronically underserved when it comes to workplace technology. With Beekeeper’s Frontline Success System, companies can automate paper-based processes, communicate with employees in real-time from anywhere, and improve the engagement, productivity, and safety of frontline teams.

Project Sharing Capability App

During the heyday of Getting Things Done productivity, I used an app called Nozbe for personal productivity. Perhaps less productivity as in a place to collect things and then generate lists which are the essence of tackling tasks. Over time I noticed that all the productivity apps generated to team collaboration for getting things done.

This new app seems to be a bit oversold (marketing fluff at the beginning) but it does fit a couple of trends of people working together and getting new employees up to speed quickly. Like many of the things I’ve written about for the past lot of years, I wish I could try it out to see how real it is. But the concept is solid.

BILT, the operational enablement tool, announced today a new feature tailored to professional technicians and tradespeople tasked with upskilling a new generation of workers. The latest app update introduces project sharing, a collaboration feature designed to enhance on-the-job enablement. Some educators expect trainees may be able to successfully install products in the field without ever having touched the equipment in the classroom if they have familiarized themselves with the 3D instructions.

“BILT is a game-changer in a training environment,” says Lab Instructor Christie Peterson of the San Francisco Joint Apprenticeship & Training Committee for Local 6. She says “BILT is absolutely the next step in the evolution of training and ideal for apprentices.”

With the new project sharing function, technicians and tradespeople can:

  1. Streamline teamwork: Now, users can easily invite colleagues to work together on complex projects, ensuring tasks are completed with precision and speed.
  2. Collaborate in real-time: Teams can synchronize efforts on the job, eliminating communication gaps to promote a smooth workflow.
  3. Follow 3D interactive guidance: Images and animations on the 3D app can be manipulated to suit an individual user’s perspective to enable a comprehensive understanding of each task’s intricacy.
  4. Contribute feedback: BILT garners ratings, reviews, and user feedback and provides managers with analytics and insights to identify pain points and potential delays.

“Project sharing fosters a dynamic, collaborative environment that boosts productivity,” says BILT Chairman & CEO Nate Henderson. He says the tool is uniquely attuned to helping professional technicians facilitate teamwork, reduce errors, and improve training.

Parallax Futures Internships

I have an interesting startup designed to promote talented people and mentor them.

“Traditional innovation ecosystems have often been limited by a lack of diversity, resulting in homogeneous ideas and solutions, as well as unexpected bias. In today’s globalized world, innovation thrives on diverse perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds.”

Parallax Futures is a non-profit fellowship program based in California that aims to infuse the world with Conceptual Technologists to seed emergent technology ecosystems such as artificial intelligence (AI) with talent, leadership and innovation skills inspiring abundant futures. Parallax Futures is led by its founder, Kim Newman, who formed the company in 2023 with the aim of creating Conceptual Technologists to inspire positivity and build better futures using emerging technology.

Parallax Futures is underpinned by 3 key principles:

  • We believe the truest form of collaboration happens when the best and brightest multi-dimensionally diverse talent are brought together.
  • We believe in the power of emergent technologies and their potential to shape the future.
  • We believe it is our responsibility as humans to harness this potential and explore new possibilities.

By bringing together individuals from various backgrounds, cultures, disciplines, and perspectives, we create an environment where innovation thrives. Marry this with the potential of emerging technologies and the result is our collective diversity fostering creativity and breakthroughs necessary for abundant futures.

Through this limitless collaboration, we will unlock the full potential of new and future technology, paving the way for positive futures where these advancements unleash progress, equality, and alignment between all living things inclusive of new innovations and the world around us.

About Kim Newman

She’s passionate about enabling teams of creatives, technology leaders, and innovators with the skills, mindset, and network to tackle the complex and evolving challenges of tomorrow. Prior to Parallax Futures, Kim enjoyed a wide variety of leadership positions in both academia and the technology sectors. She served as the Director of UCSF’s first ever strategic planning process; was program executive for a $60M higher education analytics engagement; was the go-to-market leader for IBM’s Watson Education; and a top business development executive for intellectual property licensing at IBM’s 12 global research labs. Kim holds dual Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and German from Susquehanna University.

The Parallax Futures fellowship is a 5-month program that trains practitioners to become conceptual technologists through the application of conceptual thinking to emergent technologies. By bringing together individuals from various backgrounds, cultures, disciplines, and perspectives, we create an environment where diverse thought and innovation thrives. Fellowship participants will play an active role in refining and shaping the program through their experiences, feedback, and discovered best practices.

Geopolitical Risk and Industrial Policy Drive Reshoring and FDI Announcements

Harry Moser has been a tireless crusader for bringing manufacturing jobs back to the USA. Sometimes economic forces overpower desires. The economics of offshoring have weakened over time. Then the pandemic revealed supply chain weaknesses. Factors are coming together to bring jobs closer to markets. This is news of a first half 2023 Reshoring plus Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) job announcements.

We expect to see upwards of 300,000 jobs announced by year-end. EV battery and chip investments along with other essential product industries supported by Bidenomics account for the bulk of the announcements.

Several factors have come to light that substantiate the strength of U.S. reshoring and FDI trends. In the first quarter of this year, average spending on U.S. factory construction was more than double the average from the past 17 years.  Reshoring Initiative data parallels the magnitude and focus of the construction investments. Independently conducted surveys on reshoring actions by U.S. companies also correlate very closely with Reshoring Initiative data on jobs announced over the past 12 years (Exhibit 1) adding validity to both data sets.

Reshoring and FDI job numbers demonstrate exceptional progress for U.S. manufacturing after decades of offshoring. If this progress can be combined with an industrial policy that supports greater cost competitiveness, we will continue our rapid strengthening of U.S. supply chains.

The Reshoring Initiative’s 1H 2023 Report contains data on U.S. reshoring and FDI by companies that have shifted production or sourcing from offshore to the United States.

 “We publish this data to show companies that their peers are successfully reshoring and that they should reevaluate their sourcing and siting decisions,” said Harry Moser, founder and president of the Reshoring Initiative. “With 5 million manufacturing jobs still offshore, as measured by our $1.2 trillion/year goods trade deficit, there is potential for much more growth. We also call on the administration and Congress to enact policy changes to make the United States competitive again.”

About the Reshoring Initiative

A 55-year manufacturing industry veteran and retired President of GF Machining Solutions, Harry Moser founded the Reshoring Initiative to move lost jobs back to the U.S. He was named to the Industry Week and Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME) Halls of Fame for his efforts with the Reshoring Initiative.

Generative AI Industrial Copilots to Deliver Contextual Intelligence

As I noted in my last post, the two key words for 2023 are Generative AI and Sustainable. This news concerns the release of more Copilots. These are from SymphonyAI. The company claims that generative and predictive AI are enhancing efficiency by 30%, reducing maintenance costs by 50%, and expediting decision-making by 70%. (I don’t know how they can measure the last one and the first two are huge numbers. But I will buy that there should be measurable improvements.) The three announced Copilots are designed to help frontline workers speed operations and improve efficiency.

The three role-based copilots—Plant Performance Copilot, Digital Manufacturing Copilot, and the Connected Worker Copilot—provide enhanced human-like interaction so workers can get beyond standard data analytics and analysis to understand what happened, why, and more importantly, anticipate future events. Assisted by copilots, plant managers, operators, engineers, and technicians can swiftly identify, diagnose, and overcome operational hurdles with instant initiation of corrective and mitigating actions.

Built on SymphonyAI’s next generation predictive and generative AI Industrial Reasoning and Insights Platform (IRIS), the copilots integrate within SymphonyAI industrial applications. The copilots leverage Microsoft Azure OpenAI alongside an industrial knowledge graph that includes events, sensor data, asset details, product documentation and manuals, and reliability and maintenance reports. All three copilots contextualize, process, and analyze data from various manufacturing sources. Data is presented in natural language to create actionable insights, enhance operations, reduce downtime, and bolster overall productivity.

Plant Performance Copilot enables users, including plant managers, maintenance, and reliability engineers, to quickly uncover and implement recommended actions to enhance plant performance by using natural language in a chat format rather than querying databases, interpreting dashboards, or accessing knowledge repositories. It interacts across all relevant data sources for critical asset processes, delivering targeted user assistance, recommends actions, and forecasts plant performance through contextual, proactive insights and automated workflows. Leveraging natural language, it accelerates root cause analysis from generated anomalies, including quantified KPI impact of underperforming assets and processes, along with recommended remediations.

Digital Manufacturing Copilot streamlines and strengthens manufacturing operations by seamlessly tying workflow, production, and asset data together to unveil invaluable production process optimization and bottleneck prevention insights. Generative AI adds a more intuitive ability to run what-if scenarios for production scheduling, boost throughput, and improve overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) metrics.

Connected Worker Copilot can quickly and comprehensively scan machine manuals, procedures, knowledge bases, and other sources of data to provide instant, contextual recommendations and information to users in natural language, enabling them to instantly identify and resolve problems without having to conduct time-consuming research or consult more experienced colleagues. Integrated with SymphonyAI Connected Worker, the copilot streamlines inspections, reduces rework, and minimizes resource waste for frontline workers. Natural language access to troubleshooting guides, maintenance manuals, and procedure documentation fosters smooth operations with clear insights into workflow metrics and assists new employees with a simple screen tap.

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