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Six Ways to Add a Human Touch to Technology and Employee Training

By Kristin Kastrup   |   
Training with a human touch

After more than two years of the pandemic, it appears manufacturers will continue to be plagued by a persistent shortage of labor and talent. According to a recent study by Deloitte, 77% of manufacturers expect struggles with hiring and retaining workers will continue into the future.

Fortunately, many employers have learned a thing or two that will help alleviate this problem.

We’ve learned that no matter the situation, we have the will and the capacity to change quickly to a tightening labor market. We know that essential workers are indeed essential. And we’re learning the importance of interpersonal skills paired with technology.

We’ve also discovered that technology, as we know it, can no longer exclusively meet the unique training needs of our employees. Companies are rethinking a lot of things when it comes to hiring and retaining employees and evolving the way they relate and work with employees. 

Don’t get me wrong, training technology is here to stay. There are more learning materials than anyone knows what to do with. Video content continues to grow, especially in eLearning. And leading-edge technologies like artificial intelligence are quickly gaining ground.

Technology is cemented in training because that’s what today’s workforce expects. We have new generations that have never known a world without technology. They expect the latest technology to help them learn and do their jobs.

For technology to be successful, it needs a human touch. Technology is a tool, not a strategy for hiring and retaining employees. Manufacturers have to find ways to meet the personal needs of employees and deliver them with technology. The first step to making this happen is to realize employees are re-evaluating their personal and professional goals.

For example, instead of focusing on their paychecks, many are questioning the purpose of their jobs. Job satisfaction is now dependent on professional development. Bosses are being replaced with coaches. Annual reviews are now ongoing conversations where strengths are discussed instead of weaknesses. And work-life balance supersedes almost every other factor. 

Here’s a quick snapshot of how to make your training more human-centric.

1. Communicate a Purpose
While the digits on a paycheck will never lose their importance, employees are basing their value on a much larger figure. They need to know how their role fits into the company’s overall success. For someone who works on one part of a manufacturing line, their function seems much more rewarding and integral if they understand how it affects overall production. They’ll also gain satisfaction from knowing if their efforts are helping to serve their local community such as feeding the hungry or assisting local schools.

2. Redefine Development
In its traditional sense, development is tied to advancement and promotions. But now it’s about developing broader skills and opening doors to different roles and tasks within your company. It can mean stretching into other jobs, upskilling in current jobs, and providing opportunities for employees to do other things in their current role that are still development-oriented.

This level of development can be communicated during orientation and on-boarding programs, giving employees a blueprint to success. From there, you can work with them to develop specific career paths and provide opportunities for them to upskill or reskill. And through it all, document and reward progress.

3. Transform Bosses into Coaches
Employees no longer value managers who boss them throughout the day. They need a coach who helps explain why their jobs are important and sets clear expectations for success. They need opportunities to explore new ideas and fail without consequences. And they need opportunities to learn from each other and provide consistent feedback. The differences are pretty clear. Boss will talk a lot, while a coach will listen. One will order while the other challenges. One will assign blame while the other takes responsibility. And bosses keep employees at a distance while a coach gathers employees closely as a team.

4. Replace Annual Reviews with Ongoing Conversations
Traditionally, annual reviews are held by bosses to judge an employee on their progress against goals set months ago. And then decide if they’re worthy of a raise. Now, workers are looking for ongoing conversations with their coaches. Instead of measurements, craft these conversations to include goals, progress, feedback, development, and recognition. And gauge their level of work-life balance.

Granted, in a manufacturing setting with dozens of employees, regular 1:1’s can be a time burden. To help ease the pressure, train other supervisors and line managers to share the load. Teach them the interpersonal skills necessary to support ongoing employee conversations.

5. Veer from Weaknesses to Strengths
Today’s workers are much more motivated to develop their strengths than being judged on their weaknesses. You’ll get a stronger and more long-term commitment by uncovering their strengths and providing an opportunity to develop them. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s about the importance of developing power skills, also known as soft skills or people skills. These skills are necessary for teams to work together effectively toward a goal. Examples of power skills include communication, critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration.

Give employees the opportunity to work together and share stretch assignments while job shadowing. Technology can play a role here. But it’s really about providing an opportunity for employees to work and grow together.

6. Enable and Promote Work/Life Balance
Surveys show one of the most sought-after features for today’s workforce is the ability to maintain a work-life balance. This requires a combination of scheduling, programs, and a willingness from employers. To help your employees strike this balance, consider flexible work hours, shift swapping, compressed workweeks, part-time roles, and job sharing.

All of these features can be delivered through technologies like Intertek Alchemy’s Playbook, Manager, Coach, and Creator. These tools are more successful when paired with a culture that values people. If you have any questions about how to redefine your work and training environment with a people focus, contact us for a free consultation. Also, if you’ve had any success in these areas, share them in the comment session below.

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About the Author

As Sr. Consultant Training & Human Resource Optimization, Kristin brings a strategic perspective to her work as a consultant, drawing on her experience with Alchemy solutions both as an Alchemist and as a customer. Kristin was the “Alchemy champion” at ConAgra Foods (now Conagra Brands), driving the implementation of Alchemy solutions across 140 manufacturing facilities and corporate headquarters. She brings years of training facilitation and content development, change management, organization and leadership development, people and project management. Kristin is a Certified Change Management Practitioner and a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach.

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