Skills management and development re-invented for the plant floor

Schneider Electric

Thursday, 28 October, 2021


Skills management and development re-invented for the plant floor

If you’re like most organisations today, you probably can’t recruit and train new hires quickly enough to replace the outflow of workers retiring or leaving your organisation each year. Some of your workers have likely been with your organisation for decades. When they leave, they take all of their experience and tribal knowledge out the door with them, making them impossible to replace overnight.

Training is now the top investment priority for 74% of manufacturers surveyed in Deloitte’s 3rd annual Industry 4.0 Report. This represents a significant shift in thinking as only 12% listed this as a priority two years ago. These organisations recognise that they need to continuously develop workforce skills in order to succeed in a constantly evolving Industry 4.0 environment. So, it’s no surprise that 80% of surveyed CXOs said they have created or are in the process of creating a culture of lifelong learning, and another 17% said they have plans to do so in the near future.

To enable more effective lifelong learning, organisations must use new skills development and management strategies to address the many problems with traditional training methods. These include:

  • Training is typically a one-time event. If workers don’t grasp everything they need to learn in that short period of time, there’s no easy way to do so later.
  • Workers don’t have visibility into their skills or what’s expected of them after their initial onboarding, and updates to standard procedures are often communicated verbally.
  • Worker skills are still being manually tracked in Excel spreadsheets, making it more difficult and time-consuming for management to verify, update and prove compliance.
  • There is no systematic way to capture and share workers’ knowledge and experience, so they can’t easily learn from one another.

The good news is that with applications like AVEVA Teamwork, a more efficient and effective way to train workers and manage their skills now exists, and it’s generating impressive results at some of the world’s leading organisations.

From one-time training events to continuous, on-the-job learning

We’ve all heard the research or know from personal experience that people only retain a fraction of the information they are presented with during training if they don’t immediately practise or apply what they learn.

In fact, only 62% of people transfer information immediately after training, according to a Saks and Belcourt research study, and that number drops to 44% after six months.

Because most training is squeezed into a one-time training event with a specific start and end date, there is a tendency to overload workers with too much information. Our brains were simply not designed to process and retain so much information in such a short period of time.

And even when new hires have the opportunity to apply what they learn during on-the-floor shadowing, the less frequent tasks that are only done weekly, monthly or annually are forgotten by the time the need arises.

That’s why some organisations are moving away from one-time training events in favour of continuous skills development using a digital performance support application. Workers learn how to perform a task or work to a standard directly at their workstations by viewing digital content and micro-lessons on a tablet. They use the tablet to scan a QR code on their machine to instantly access all the skills required to operate the equipment and troubleshoot problems.

A step-by-step training program for each skill outlines all the digital content that must be viewed and any exams and mandatory offline activities that must be completed, such as shadowing and classroom training.

Workers use the app to access training manuals, work instructions, SOPs, exams and even link to any content that is stored in external systems. After completing all steps, workers can take an online exam and request an endorsement from their supervisor, who then observes them performing the task and ranks their competency level.

Because the content is digital and always available, workers don’t need to learn everything at once. They can start a lesson whenever they have a few minutes to spare and as the need arises. The app tracks where workers are in a lesson and makes it easy for them to resume their training.

By empowering workers to learn at their own pace at their workstation, a large food company can reduce shadowing time and manpower-related costs by 40%.

By making digital content easily accessible at their stations, workers at a leading confectionery manufacturer are now accessing critical information needed to do their jobs 90% faster compared to when the information was stored in binders away from their stations.

Many organisations are also gradually replacing their text-based content with video micro-lessons in order to accelerate comprehension and retention.

“Video micro-lessons are quicker and easier to understand than reading text. Text can be easily misinterpreted, whereas there is no ambiguity with videos,” explained the Operations Support Coordinator at a Canadian producer of premium dairy products.

Engaging workers in their skills development

Workers lack visibility into the skills they need to develop and update in the short-term, and how they can prepare themselves for future roles and responsibilities. With the app, workers view their individualised curriculum, are notified when a work instruction has been updated and track their progress directly at their workstations without having to rely on their supervisor or training department to pass on the information.

They simply navigate to their profile page to get an at-a-glance view of all the skills, work instructions, troubleshoots and compliance training that have been assigned to them based on their job title and location.

From manual skills tracking to automated skills management

Learning and development stakeholders are increasingly assuming a more strategic role within their organisation to ensure their workforce has the needed skills to support operations both today and in the future. To do that, they need to have real-time visibility into the current skill set of workers, and be able to identify where the gaps are now and will be in the future. However, manually tracking and updating worker skills is time-consuming and the cause of outdated, unreliable and non-compliant records. The app presents a digital skills matrix that gives management real-time visibility into workforce competencies.

It makes it easy to quickly see skills coverage across team members, including who has requested endorsements and which skills are due for renewal. The matrix is automatically updated and provides easy access to the content and exams used to train workers.

From tribal knowledge to collective knowledge

96% of workplace learning is informal and only 4% is formal, according to a study from the 70:20:10 Institute. Without a more efficient and effective way for workers to pass on their knowledge and ideas, tribal knowledge persists and is lost forever when workers retire or leave.

That’s why organisations are empowering their workers to digitally communicate, collaborate and share information with one another directly at their workstations. With the app, workers post calls for help with photos or video as issues arise. Experts across the company can comment and collaborate to offer suggestions and find a solution. Once a problem is solved, it can be automatically converted into a troubleshooting solution in the knowledge base for others to learn from.

The key is to engage workers in their skills development, and this can be done by:

  • empowering workers to be autonomous and learn more efficiently and effectively
  • empowering management to be more strategic and make timely decisions
  • empowering everyone to share knowledge and contribute to continuous improvement.

To learn more, visit: https://www.se.com/au/en/work/products/product-launch/local/schneider-electric-and-aveva.jsp.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/Gorodenkoff

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