Three Things That Won’t Solve Workforce Challenges

Ten or so years ago workforce development was the job of professionals within the workforce development field. Now, workforce development has morphed into an effort that for some reason more people and professions than needed are trying to contribute to. The issue in many cases is “what” the non-workforce professionals are trying to contribute. Here is a list of three things being forced into the workforce development arena that are limited at best, and counterproductive at worst. paperwork_overload_by_primousinwonderland_d5eu4w7-fullview

1) Government training and engagement funding programs. Paperwork, with a side of paperwork is curbing enthusiasm and the ability to access some potentially good State based programs. Money will be left on the table when the process consumes too much of human resource’s time. Why? Because human resource’s time equals money as well. Additionally, they are already busy people. Yes to training and engagement funds, but let’s simplify the hoops and time consumption currently attached to them.

2) Economic developers. I am a recovering economic developer so I say this with love. Economic development is a full time, and important job in communities. Impact and ability are diluted when workforce is added in as ‘economic development.’ Almost any economic developer who was around 10+ year ago went kicking and screaming to Workforce Investment Act meetings because it ‘wasn’t what an economic developer did.’ Let’s quit forcing people into conversations and dynamics that take away from what they were originally hired to do. The exception, creating a job or department within the economic development organization specifically to target partnerships with workforce professionals and support growing workforce efforts.

3) Incentivizing only job creation/retention growth. Incentivizing manufacturing growth only when it includes jobs created doesn’t make sense anymore, especially in rural areas. You only need to look at demographic trends to see the issue. If you only incentivize job creation, rural areas will eventually lose their manufacturers and they will at times move to secure both more people and the funds that come with them. Most of us know multiple companies who have jumped locations for economic development funding. Why? Because many States have built incentive programs creating a dynamic which makes it more profitable for them to do so. Would I move across the city or county line if incentivized to do so? Yes, yes I would if I was in the business of ending a year with a profit. Incentivizing automation eases the workforce challenges when it comes down to the bottom line of having enough people to fill positions. It contributes to stabilizing communities.

By continually adding everyone under the sun into the workforce discussion and/or program planning the only outcome you are on the path to is progress at a pace that is detrimental to manufacturing. More action, less meetings, more smart conversations, less of talking things into the ground and then burying them with endless paperwork.

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.

#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.