Manufacturing’s Brave New World is Remote Working

As talent shortages deepen, a key battle in the war among manufacturers to retain staff is the successful adoption of home working.

The pandemic brought about an emergency need for widespread remote working, however, its effects are lingering for businesses and talent acquisition leaders.

Employees have made it clear that they want to retain it as an option, often leading to disagreement with employers. Many manufacturing jobs aren’t suitable for remote work, but finding ways for those that can shift to home working while also bringing more flexibility to in-person roles is vital.

Fewer remote working opportunities lead to poor retention rates

Manufacturing companies’ staff retention rates are closely linked to remote working. Those that offer more fully remote roles, as well as bringing home working aspects to non-remote roles, are benefitting from a larger talent and skills pool.

A recent Cielo report on “The benefits of remote working on talent acquisition” analyses LinkedIn data for regional and cross-sector differences in employment trends and adoption. It establishes the percentage of manufacturing vacancies advertised as “remote” by country and sector, as well as manufacturing professionals who changed jobs in the last 90 days (to mid-May 2022) by country.

The research shows that many of the countries offering fewer remote working jobs also have higher levels of employees switching roles. This includes the UK, Germany, Netherlands and Australia, which all have an annualized job change run-rate of around 20%. Put simply, employees are seeking roles that offer remote work and many are happy to leave the sector altogether for those that best fit their work-life balance needs.

Lack of remote work options is likely to harm retention across the entire sector. There is an industry-wide benefit of accelerating digitalization and automation while minimizing disruption and shutdown, making it possible for more remote working across the board.

Flexible working is crucial

As employees want more flexibility, many employers realize that what they’re doing isn’t enough. The Littler 2021 European Employer Survey shows that over 50% of manufacturers believe their staff prefer hybrid or remote work to a greater extent than they offer it.

Flexible and remote working are particularly important for younger people. It’s a crucial prerequisite for Gen Z, who now make up a significant, skilled and highly mobile demographic of the professional manufacturing population.

Kantar’s research reports that 86% of Generation Z and 85% of millennials say that deciding whether to accept a job hinges more on flexible home working policies than most other factors. In blunt terms, the younger workforce demands remote employment and will favor posts that allow it.

Another factor to consider is that most younger workers won’t consider an inflexible role that lacks autonomy, so manufacturers must invest in their early talent programs to secure the right aptitudes and attitudes – and retain them.

It’s not just the younger workers that place importance on flexibility. Two thirds of boomers consider remote working a top priority, too.

Manufacturers who offer distance jobs can also recruit from a far larger geographic footprint, which offers a much greater, more diverse pool of candidates.

An advantage is that visas are not needed for remote working across borders. Crucially, this means there are no barriers for employers selecting from the huge numbers of EU top talent.

Navigating the practicalities

Nothing’s without obstacles – and introducing remote and flexible working is no exception, with both legal and logistical considerations. How do organizations provide effective remote training and development? How do manufacturers ensure that skills and insight continue to flow from colleague to colleague when they could rarely, sometimes never, meet?

In response, Cielo are researching and trialing novel technologies with our clients. These include virtual reality (VR) and leveraging the metaverse, which have the potential to enable more personal interactions at a distance.

We’re also working to recreate the sense of “community” in remote working teams. Activities like anchor days – bringing everyone together once a month – might be a solution. Some organizations now even have dedicated internal events management teams and more budget to make these in-person meetings meaningful.

Manufacturers that are open to change and evolve are gaining competitive advantage over their slower, reluctant rivals. If work can’t be done remotely, try introducing as many remote aspects to the job as possible and more flexible working hours. Restrictive, unyielding rules like pay cuts for home workers or insisting workplace attendance will only underline a company’s reputation as an undesirable destination among a scarce manufacturing talent pool.

sally hunter cieloSally Hunter

About the Author:
Sally Hunter is Managing Director of Advanced Manufacturing and Technology at Cielo. She was named in the Staffing Industry Analysts 2020 Global Power list as one of the top 150 female leaders in the recruitment industry.

The post Manufacturing’s Brave New World is Remote Working appeared first on Industry Today.

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