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Manufacturers, do you find your talent pool is not full — but you’re still drowning?

Maggie Slowik Profile picture for user Maggie Slowik April 10, 2024
Onboarding and retaining staff on the shop floor is one of the main challenges facing manufacturers today. Maggie Slowik of IFS examines how the connected worker strategy can provide a lifeline.

Industrial connected manufacturing concept © metamorworks -
(© metamorworks -

Manufacturing companies are not just having to deal with supply chain shortages, sustainability pressures, ESG guidelines and operational efficiency issues — one of their most pressing challenges is the lack of skilled and qualified talent on the shop floor.

And the issues don’t stop with attracting talent — attrition rates are increasing, with an average staff turnover now up to 25% year on year. I write about broader strategies to attack attrition in my recent article on the strategic approach to improving worker experience.

The traditional shop floor training approach is inefficient, costly and ineffective and is one of the key causes of performance inconsistencies, safety risks, and skills gaps. To keep up with talent shortages, manufacturers are often forced to retain low performers because there isn’t a strong talent pool.

The result? Rising recruitment and training costs, coupled with operational downtime and inefficiencies tied to the time and resources.

90% of learning happens informally

The 70:20:10 model for learning and development is now widely accepted as the most progressive and valuable training and development model.

  • 70% of learning happens through on-the-job experience.
  • 20% of learning happens socially through colleagues and friends.
  • 10% of learning happens via formal training experiences.

That’s a whole 90% of informal learning that comes from experiential and social learning, where workers can tap into the tacit knowledge of fellow co-workers that no text book can supply.

If experiential and social learning aren’t a part of your training mix, then you’re missing a trick, or more to the point, you are missing the value of tapping into a new generation of powerful, connected workforce solutions.

So let’s take it a level deeper, and think about how ‘attacking attrition’ actually gets done. How can processes be automated? What tools and technologies should underwrite this strategic approach for our connected workforce?

First, let’s meet the new connected frontline worker 

Manufacturers cannot afford the risk of keeping workers that aren’t fully trained or certified on their shop floor. They now have a whole new set of tools to capture this tacit knowledge and create a culture of continuous improvement within the workforce — and to help them to onboard and upskill new talent efficiently, safely and quickly.

For example, among IFS customers, the Poka connected worker platform is helping manufacturers tackle talent retention attrition rates. It supports several core principles:

  • In line with providing workforce training & development, we must provide frontline workers with easy access to comprehensive safety checklists, reporting, reminders, and training — promoting a safer shop floor, and bridging the disconnect between the shop floor and top floor by providing leaders with real-time safety metrics straight from the shop floor.
  • To enhance safety measures, we must standardize safety expectations by improving worker knowledge and retention of critical safety requirements. This is supported by providing one-point-lessons and video-based work instructions all at the tap of a button.
  • We must track and oversee safety certifications. When safety skills can be automatically assigned and tracked, this provides manufacturing leaders with greater real-time visibility into training gaps, which will assist with planning of future training programs.
  • We must ensure safety standards and requirements are implemented. Checklists are used by frontline workers to perform critical tasks, promote safety standards, and quickly identify, report and action any deviations. This is particularly relevant for manufacturers in highly regulated manufacturing sub-industries, where the top floor must ensure that frontline workers operating certain assets are equipped with the necessary skillsets and qualifications.

Handing your workers a new lifeline

Handing each new worker a tablet equipped with a comprehensive connected worker platform is akin to handing them a lifeline — supporting them to work independently and safely, while also driving paperless shop floor efficiencies.

Connected worker solutions can streamline onboarding and promote employee retention, empower frontline workers and provide them with the confidence and support to enable them to complete tasks to the highest quality, in the safest and most efficient way.

The Poka solution also now offers a fully immersive experience when paired with Apple Vision Pro to assist with the worker onboarding and training.

Case in point – Milwaukee Tools

When Milwaukee Tools identified a staff turnover of up to 70% in its Sun Prairie plant, it implemented the Poka connected worker solution. The Poka team assisted its 175+ users with onboarding processes, skills management, plant floor communication, plant level leadership development and information collection forms. 

Within 12 months of deployment, Milwaukee saw its retention rate soar from 30% to 74% — with a further 250 more employees projected to be onboarded to meet company growth. By meeting key performance indicators of reducing new hire turnover and time taken in the onboarding process, while driving essential shop-floor engagement among the workforce, the connected worker platform has become an essential part of Milwaukee Tools’ processes. 

To learn more, join IFS and Poka for a series of webinars to introduce the concept of the connected worker, what trends are on the horizon, use cases and solution demos. These sessions are suitable for practitioners and leaders, and have been segmented into three topics — Production & Operations, Continuous Improvement and Learning & Development.

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