Automation In Rural Manufacturing & Why It Should Be Incentivized

There are plenty of debates over automation in manufacturing. More often than not part of an automation debate includes automation vs. jobs. Automation is a complicated issue with multiple layers, but for this post, let’s focus on the’ jobs will be lost if automation comes’ myth in rural communities. That’s right “myth”. Let’s get this out of the way, jobs will not be lost, jobs will change.  automation

On January 24 this year Marketwatch had an article based on a Brookings Institute study. The Marketwatch item had the super sexy title, “Over 30 million U.S. workers will lose their jobs because of AI”, big stuff. The article went on to say “…“high exposure” to automation — meaning at least 70 percent of their tasks could soon be performed by machines using current technology. Among those most likely to be affected are cooks, waiters and others in food services; short-haul truck drivers; and clerical office workers.”

On January 25, 2019 CNBC had a piece based on that same Brooking study and CNBC titled it a semi-sexy, “Automation threatening 25% of jobs in the US, especially the ‘boring and repetitive’ ones: Brookings study,” less sexy, but still disturbing if you are cruising through life with only enough time to catch headlines as many of us are.

The two articles above are great examples of why the word “automation” can send fear into the workplace and leave workers feeling insecure. But here is the thing, automation in rural manufacturing is what will save many rural communities. Subsequently, anyone in the market of incentivizing via economic development needs to get on board with offering incentives to manufacturers who are automating, and quit tying incentives to job creation only.

Rural communities continue to see a decline in population. There is no indication that this trend will stop, it may slow, and occasionally adjust a bit, but overall rural economic and community development need to engage in clear conversations regarding doing as much and/or more with less people. This applies to rural manufacturers as well, many who already feel the workforce shortage pain, subsequently the need for automation. Failure to support the growth of automation within rural communities will, not might, but will result in rural manufacturers eventually having to pack up and leave due to a lack of workforce.

The current rural workforce reality has shifted from a dollars per job created equation, to a dollars per job retained and/or dollars that will remain within the community based on supporting, and stabilizing manufacturing growth. Unfortunately most States have not shifted away from the dynamic of only incentivizing ‘per job.’ And realistically rural communities will have limited capacity to do so themselves on a large scale.

So the bottom line, automation is necessary in rural communities if they are to survive. And when you look at employment opportunities vs. available workforce in the majority of these communities it is clear automation will not take jobs, it will change the type of jobs to a higher technical level, and/or assist in smoothing processes where a lack of employees exist. Not assisting manufacturers in automation will result in not just jobs lost in rural areas, but companies lost.

Zone of Genius

zone of geniusWhat is your zone of genius?  A lot of us reside in a working world hanging out in either a zone of competence, or zone of excellence.  This may sound like a positive, but hanging out in a zone of competence or even excellence is why we have over 70% of employees disengaged.

How do you know what/where your zone of genius resides?  Easy.  It is whatever gives you the highest ratio of satisfaction and target income and makes you feel wonderful doing it, knowing you are really great at it.  It is earning a living doing something you really love, not just something you are good at.  A zone of genius feeds you, not just because of ego driven “I’m good at this”, but because you are good at it, and you find it deeply satisfying, which cycles into additional positive energy further feeding your pursuits.

Integrity Sometimes Means Breaking Commitments

I saw this post from a friend on social media this morning.  It really rang my internal bell.  He is currently at Everest, and if that isn’t inspiring enough the insight he shared (below) is critical. In a world that seems to be polarizing more and more, do what’s right, even if it means changing your mind, path, and/or commitment – that’s integrity.everest

Phil Gore’ Post:

The Memorial to Lost Climbers on Everest

Integrity is oneness with yourself. It means doing the right things in the moment, regardless of what others may think. It means that you are true to yourself.

It does not mean you always stay with your plans or keep your commitments. Integrity is keeping commitments when you should and breaking them when that is the right thing to do.

Most of the dead people remembered by this memorial, either they or someone they believed in were more stubbornly determined to keep their commitment to a summit than they were to doing the right thing in the moment.

This is not criticism or throwing stones. I have made this mistake. Once, it nearly cost two lives, and once it cost a life.

If you read this far, examine your understanding of the word integrity. Don’t buy an ill-conceived understanding of the term. Sometimes, it means keeping commitments, and sometimes it means breaking them. May God help each of us to live lives of integrity and do right things in the moments we have.

Accountability

accountabilityAccountability is the base of business, leadership, friendship, etc.  The challenge within it can be very real.  Two thoughts on leaning into accountability:

1.)  Know that the lens you look through changes, and be aware that impacts   accountability as well. Revisit what you need to address throughout your life.

2.)  Accountability goes beyond you.  You model and support your business’s culture, your team, your friends, and show leadership by showing others your commitment and integrity through your commitment to holding yourself and others accountable.

Accountability can be challenging because it is not always easy holding yourself accountable, nor is it always popular holding others accountable.  You will often need to do a gut check and pick your path.  Are you traveling the path of popularity, or the path of integrity.

#1 Workforce Attraction Resource in Manufacturing

social media.jpgThe number one workforce attraction resource isn’t money, although money is up there, it is social media.  If you don’t have a social media recruiting strategy, you are spending more time and money then you need to in recruiting.  Stop using your words and burning your time. Connect to potential new employees by meeting them where they are via social media.

  1. People relate to those they see as having commonality with themselves.  Have a current employee in a gorilla marketing video for your manufacturing facility and post it.  Not only will you see organic sharing of it, the shares will be right to your target audience.
  2. Management vs. Workers.  Human nature propels a very us vs. them dynamic be it in sports, school rivalry, politics, management vs. workers, etc.  Who is doing your outreach, is it someone your target audience will work alongside with, or answer to?  Connecting to someone that you’ll work alongside presents a potentially higher level of trust. BIG difference in seeing a picture of a supervisor vs. a picture of a group of co-workers on Instagram.
  3. Quit saying and/or writing things like ‘it’s not your grandfather’s factory,’ no matter what age of worker you are trying to attract.  Why?  Because when you do so you’ve automatically planted ‘the past’ into prospects minds.  You’ve also planted the idea that there was something wrong when a prior generation did the work.  Both reference points are negative.  Pictures/videos through social media will automatically convey the setting you are looking to engage others in.  Let the pictures/video do the work for you.

In Demand Jobs Week Vs In Demand Employee

omjstencil-300x300This week is “In Demand Jobs Week” with all kinds of workforce activities going on.  What is an “in demand” job?  That probably depends on where you are located.  Regardless of the job, this week also merits reminding those who are looking for employment, as well as those hiring, that the employee is the one “in demand.”  

No matter how a job is marketed, it comes down to is the employee the right fit.  Recently while doing mock interviews at an area high school I was asked for what is the best advice I’d give to someone preparing to interview.  It is as follows, be authentic, be yourself.  The level of disengaged employees is over 70%, a number that should concern employers and job seekers.  That level of disengagement is a clear statement in our focus on jobs rather than the people we need to fill them.

Job seekers, be yourself and you’ll land in an organizational culture that fits you. Employers, is your organizational culture one that fits the employees you are trying to attract?

Leadership vs Ego

How do you know if you are a good leader?  Step one, lead without ego.  I just saw “ego is not your amigo” somewhere.  First I laughed, and then I thought how true, and how unfortunate more of us don’t realize that.

Ego can not only get in the way of your success, it can block your talent overall.  If you are more interested in if you are going to get or are getting the credit, than actually getting things done, you have an ego issue.  The problem with ego, is it spins into all kinds of unattractive behaviors which in turn will lift the veil on your “leadership” or more likely the lack there of.

Once people get a whiff of your ego, they’ll write you off as inauthentic.  Once people sense it is about “you” rather than “we” they’ll drop their level of engagement.  We operate in a very ego driven culture; subsequently, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that approximately 51 percent of employees are unengaged, and 17 percent are actively disengaged.  That is significant, and obviously a huge drag on productivity.

Einstein said it best, and I’ll leave it at that…

einstein

Quit Treating Economic Development Like A Game Show

Economic development projects are not something you win.  Economic development projects are something you first have a community plan for, along with collaboration and engagement with community partners, and then when an opportunity rises you have the economic intelligence to go after what fits your community culture and future, and pass on what does not.

Are you in your community sweet spot for smart growth and quality of life or are you just playing “Let’s Make A Deal”? Here are some indicators…

If your community has never passed on a “lead” your community is doing it wrong.

If you have no policy on what merits incentives and what does not, you are planning to fail.

If leadership is offering incentives as a “free gift with purchase” without running a formula on what the actual company need is, you are wasting taxpayer dollars.

Incentives are great, as is economic development; however, the propensity of human beings to win at all costs is what mucks things up.  And there is your loop back to economic development needing economic intelligence.  Freewheeling a deal is basically putting your taxpayers in second place and some strangers with either real, or possibly magic beans in the number one slot.

There are a lot of abandoned buildings out there that once housed projects communities fought for and incentivized, such as these three in Ohio.  None of us are surprised there are no politicians and glory grabbers standing at this end of the deal.

 

Economic Intelligence, A Must

Without economic intelligence your economic development efforts are basically just bribing companies to come to your community, often at the cost of the community itself.  What is economic intelligence?  It is knowing parameters, trends, competition, community cost per dollar, and community keys involving the greater good over the human propensity to win at all cost.

Economic intelligence in economic development is what makes economic development ethical, rather than a glory grabbing, win at all cost, race to the bottom.  Corporate is great, but putting corporate over the community you are representing is not.

'Remember, it's not a lie if it makes us money.'