manufacturingtechnologyinsights

Why you Must Uncover the Value of What you Have? Uncover the Value of your People

By Lee Penning, CIO, Collabworks

Lee Penning, CIO, Collabworks

Manufacturing has always been at the very heart of the American workforce. Statistics tell us that one out of six American jobs in the private sector are in manufacturing (as published by the National Association of Manufacturers), and their number is (slowly) growing, thanks to multiple re-shoring initiatives all over the country and improving economy.

At the same time, CEO surveys have consistently indicated that talent and workforce engagement are at the top of management concerns, because of a shrinking workforce (skilled workers in the US are of an average age of 56, and are about to retire) and difficult retention of talent in a growing, developing market that encourages employees to “job shop”.

"Today’s manufacturers will need to think about solutions differently, understanding how the manufacturing knowledge worker will be the differentiator"

When taken together, these two facts put a renewed pressure on all manufacturing HR professionals, focusing challenges around acquiring, training and retaining a shifting workforce of talent.

Today’s manufacturers will need to think about solutions differently, understanding how the manufacturing knowledge worker will be the differentiator. In order to compete with off-shore low-cost alternatives, manufacturing professionals will need to rely more on the workers’ ability to make decisions from the factory floor up, as well as from the top down, compressing management costs and extending operational value, rather than simply evaluating skills.

Yet, executives recognize their companies are inefficient and slow to adapt. The training and learning that could mitigate the lack of ready talent is not available, while reduced engagement, and employee long-term loyalty, makes filling jobs a thankless, routine business discouraging recruiters and managers alike.

CollabWorks conducted many executive interviews and held several workshops with dozens of corporations, concluding that the root cause behind workforce disengagement and inefficiency lies with the long accepted job-defined hierarchy and work distribution model. Jobs, headcount, authority, and budgets do not create value. It is the work that matters. The work drives business outcomes and shareholder value. The workforce needs to be optimized around the work, not the work optimized around the jobs. This should seem obvious but ironically the distribution of work and its real value is largely unknown.

Can we find a process to help with this problem?
♦ What if we could collect this information from each worker?
♦ What if we could share their thoughts with other managers to help workers move in the direction they want to go while getting the work done more effectively while meeting or exceeding the customer’s needs?
♦ Would this type of activity help get workers more involved and engaged?
♦ Would it make workers more alert to opportunities to improve their work life and contribute more to the company, while enhancing their personal worth?

It seems it should be pretty simple to collect the data needed to find the answers to the questions above and thus optimize the work. Just ask, right? But most current HR Talent Management and change management tools or processes do not seem to include this type of information collection and analysis.

We need to collect, manage and analyze data specific to the work being done and to its intrinsic value, then consolidate it across the group, the department, the division or even the entire company.

Are there tools to help collect, manage, and analyze all information collected?

With the CollabWorks process, the focus starts with a bottom up approach. We partner with the managers and the workers to assess what they have currently and provide inputs to what could change in the future.

The workers themselves create a list of activities or services currently provided, and can evaluate the time or proportion of time required to deliver these services. Suggestions can then be gathered on how to improve, combine or remove services to gain efficiencies. Resources freed up could be applied to other needed services. It really can be that simple.

As an experienced professional, you are certainly thinking: “Sure that worked for them but it would never work for us. We’re spread out all over and located in too many places to be able to do something like you described. It would just take too much time and energy.” We think that this statement does not correspond to reality as our customers have proved.

Each time a CollabWorks customer has gone through the WaaS (Worker as a Service) process cycle, they have discovered improvements that have increased worker engagement and benefited the company’s bottom line. Engagement surveys given at the beginning of each cycle have demonstrated an increase in engagement scores compared to the previous survey. This has been true of the talent alignment with services as well.

Let’s look at a few Customers’ experience examples:

Software Development Efficiency:

With 10-12 Person/months investment, a team of 5 engineers was able to focus on higher-value work (Design & Development) instead of fighting hardware /device-based debugging and troubleshooting:

♦ Accelerate development and unit test work by 20 percent (Value: 1 FTE)
♦ Improved quality by 10-20 percent, reduced bug reports, post-release rework and sustaining engineering (Value: 1 FTE)
♦ Concentration on higher value work improved job satisfaction, reduced attrition (Value: 1 FTE)

IP/Patent Idea Generations:

By freeing up time in a high-value team, the company patent process was changed to “IDF” (Invention Disclosure Forms); a team of 10 people now meets bi-weekly to brainstorm innovation options and possibilities, leading to:
♦ 16 IDFs and 8 Patent Submissions per year
♦ Sense of ownership and accomplishment = Higher retention rates

WIKI/SharePoint Usage Improvement:

Based on the team services evaluations, the disorganized and outdated information in the corporate wiki was identified as a time waster, with an average 11.5 percent of time spent on searching information. Upon team improvement suggestions:

♦ 50 percent reduction on time spent on wiki research was achieved
♦ Potential savings of 3 weeks/FTE/year.
♦ Total effort invested in the WaaS process was of 14 weeks.

All of this was accomplished with a minimum amount of time by the participants. The process is adaptable and repeatable with the same team(s), as well as adding new team members or related groups to incorporate inputs.

By following CollabWorks processes, you can in a short time:
♦ Quantify the work and its value
♦ Align work to address (mostly internal) customer needs
♦ Agree on an ongoing process to replace low or no value work with high value work
♦ Empower workers to visibly align their talents to the most valuable work

By embracing “Work First Technology” and shifting the focus on work, not only there are consistent savings, but also an improvement on the traditional HR processes, clarifying the work, the use of talent, and optimizing both.