How manufacturing companies can address the employee onboarding challenge

How manufacturing companies can address the employee onboarding challenge

Onboarding is the process of integrating and acculturating new employees into the organization and providing them with the tools, resources, and knowledge to become successful and productive.” – Booz Allen Hamilton in a report for the Partnership for Public Service

In the age of digital transformation and growing technology adoption to improve organizational efficiencies, employee onboarding cannot be treated as a stepchild. Onboarding processes are more than orientation programs that introduce new hires to their work surroundings. In the manufacturing sector, especially, given the vast scale of operations and hiring, robust employee onboarding processes become contributors to help them become experts fast and hit the ground running. It also helps in establishing the first threads of employee engagement, a factor that is critical to employee productivity. However, as more digital natives begin entering the workforce, manufacturing companies are being compelled to take a relook at their onboarding processes.

The challenges of employee onboarding in manufacturing

With the new age of manufacturing and the changing needs of new age manufacturing employees, it is important to acknowledge that the onboarding programs need to be personalized, relevant, comprehensive and should help in forging a strong connection with the employee.

The Millennial Workforce – With an increasing number of Generation Y-ers comprising the workforce, onboarding is the time to establish the company’s employment brand for better employee retention. Why? Simply because they and the Millennials want clarity on their career development path from Day-1. Robust onboarding processes drive employee engagement and help them become productive and engaged in innovation faster.

Unique Needs – The challenges of employee onboarding are unique in the manufacturing sector. You have a large workforce with varying degrees of knowledge. You have the blue collar worker who has certain special needs to look into. You have a workforce that is often distributed, located in off-site plans, and manufacturing sites while the main office is located elsewhere. Added to that is the rapid adoption of technology that is changing processes, and there are also rapidly evolving compliance norms to manage.

Logistical Challenges – Learning and Development and Training departments in manufacturing companies also have to take into consideration the vast number of employees who need onboarding at the same time. Considering that the hiring happens in large numbers collectively, it can be a huge challenge to provide optimized onboarding experiences to all of the new hires especially if we depend solely on classroom training. This not only becomes a resource complex initiative as you need to get the right trainers on board and also juggle the schedules of those attending the training. Additionally, there is the logistical challenge of getting the new hires from different locations to the training location. This can not only be a logistical nightmare but can also drive up training costs significantly.

So how can manufacturers address these growing employee challenges? Clearly, when it comes to employee onboarding, this industry cannot, and ideally should not, look at one mode of information communication. There has been a growing realization about the importance of valuing your workforce and creating a positive work culture. Having a strong onboarding process can help drive home this point – especially to establish the change that has come in the manufacturing sector with the use of automation, tools, robots and Industry 4.0.

The Solution

The solution to scale the employee onboarding challenges can be achieved by leveraging Blended Learning. Blended Learning employs a right combination of eLearning and classroom training programs to yield the best results. Onboarding for the people working in this industry is not just about familiarization but is also about coming up to speed in the shortest possible timeframe. A combination of eLearning and classroom training or practical exposure ensures that the onboarding process is comprehensive, relevant and personalized.

For example, for blue-collar workers, onboarding has to have agenda of making them productive on the shop floor. So, they have to be trained in working on machinery and heavy equipment. This part of the training can be done employing eLearning where videos, tutorials, simulations, and mobile can be leveraged to provide a working knowledge of how things work. This can be then supplemented with practical supervision to ensure proficiency.

Thorough process knowledge is essential for employees in manufacturing. However, with the rapid adoption of technology, there has been a sea of change and processes and workflows have undergone tectonic shifts. Complex processes, concepts, and workflows can be easily explained to the employees using eLearning. Tables, diagrams, simulations, animations, gamification, storytelling etc. are few things that can be easily used in the eLearning format to explain several complex process stages and provide a clear understanding of them. These avenues can also be leveraged to assess the level of mastery the employee has gained and determine the need for future training.

When it comes to the supervisor or manager, the onboarding experience can be customized further using the blended learning approach. eLearning can be used to demonstrate how things work and product usage, impart knowledge regarding processes and workflows, introduce them to the how and what of new technologies being implemented, train them on compliance and regulatory norms etc. With eLearning, organizations get the capability to not just manage the training but also measure the amount of knowledge gained. This ensures that by the time the onboarding process is complete there is a complete and organic knowledge transfer to the employee. This can be followed up with classroom and practical training on product or other shop floor operations to ensure that the team is competent to expertly perform in real-life work scenarios. This helps the employee become proactively productive.

Blended learning also gives the opportunity to optimize time spent in classroom training. Employees can first understand processes leveraging eLearning and then can undergo classroom training to achieve greater proficiency. This also helps training teams and individual departments utilize employee time better as employees are not away from their factory for extended periods.

It has been established that if you want your employees to be a part of your growth story you have to give them a good start. Established manufacturing companies such as Michelin, Arcelor Mittal and the like have gone on record to state that. In order to close the skills gap that is fast emerging in this sector, it, therefore, becomes inevitable to look at creating a positive impact from their first interaction with the company. It is imperative to have onboarding processes that help the employee get on-board as efficiently, quickly, thoroughly and as positively as possible. And this can be achieved easily using the Blended Learning approach.