Manufacturing needs to embrace the tech revolution to hire the next best talent
-Zac Duff, JigSpace
Australian manufacturers are scrambling to sure-up their most precious resource: their people. With historically low unemployment rates and a competitive labour market, 90% of CEOs across all industries expect to be affected by staff shortages in 2023, and manufacturing is a sector particularly impacted by people pressures.
While other sectors such as technology, retail, professional services and engineering remain appealing to a younger demographic, manufacturing is sometimes seen as a less attractive proposition. That fear largely revolves around machine-heavy roles, out of date processes and “we’ve always done it this way” mentalities.
Zac Duff, Jig Space
But with Millennials now the largest generational workforce group in the country, the onus is on manufacturers to embrace change and build an innovation-led culture where digital natives see a clear pathway for development, opportunities and progression.
A recent report from PWC said millennials are set to make up 75% of the workforce by 2025, and are a crucial lynchpin to a business’ future success. Gen Y and Gen Z embrace the idea of applying technology as a solution to problems and being open to adaptation, and they’re put off by old school tools and approaches.
Getting comfortable with discomfort
The truth is, new technologies can be intimidating. When you’re operating large-scale facilities, rolling out changes company-wide can be daunting, and getting buy-in from senior decision makers isn’t always easy.
But if we want to make our manufacturing facilities fit for purpose and futureproof, we need to get more comfortable with stepping into the unknown. Rather than thinking of technology implementation as a looming headache, look for solutions that are user-friendly, solve a smaller problem, and are easy to implement. Tools such as Zoom were unheard of just a few years ago, but now they’re widely embedded, with very little friction thanks to usability and solving a specific need.
A tech-forward approach
Rather than technology being an afterthought, taking a tech-forward approach means looking for ways to work more intuitively, efficiently and productively, using tools designed for your specific needs. If your business has a requirement, there’s probably an existing tech solution that could solve it – whether it’s improving communication with customers, designing better products or more robust reporting.
For younger generations who have grown up with games and consumer apps, their experience with software is intuitive and rewarding. When they enter the workforce, they expect their tools to feel the same.
So rather than risking irrelevance to the largest part of the workforce, talk about tech as a tool that enables positive change in your business, and encourage your employees to bring their ideas to the table. Call for champions of change with curious minds within your team to be the people who test new technologies, so that they can provide relevant feedback before you start to roll out new tech company-wide.
Don’t throw out the last 30 years of how things have been done, but instead foster a culture where your younger, curious and engaged workforce can supercharge that knowledge with new technologies.
Sometimes we think too big when it comes to tech-forward changes. It feels like a significant shift, so it’s easier to stick with existing processes and systems. But small steps can add up to big wins when applied at scale.
Take augmented reality (AR) for example. It’s been talked about as a revolutionary technology in manufacturing for years, but there’s a misconception that it’s about investing in expensive hardware, hiring or training software developers, and spending months creating 3D assets from scratch.
The reality is, getting to value with modern AR can be simple. A single, tech-forward individual can install an app, and use existing CAD files to build secure, interactive presentations that help to quickly communicate complex ideas. You can see better outcomes for your workers and customers in minutes, not months.
So think about technology as another layer in the evolution of your business. You’re not throwing out what’s in place, but building on those foundations to go even further.
Innovation as standard
Innovation is not a nice to have, it’s business critical to use tech to overcome your day-to-day problems like hiring and cost cutting. If we’re going to put more tech-forward workers into conservative industries, we need to shift our approach so that innovation is at the heart of every decision.
Innovation will also give you more robust recruitment and retention for your business, as remuneration alone isn’t enough to tempt Millenial and Gen Z employees.
They’re looking to work with businesses where creativity is rewarded, and where professional development is a priority: a recent Culture Amp study found that 37.1% of workers cited a lack of professional development as their reason for leaving a job, higher than reasons such as issues with their manager, seeking a career change or wanting better remuneration. So offering a workplace culture where professional development is standard, and innovation is embraced, will give you a competitive edge in finding and keeping the best people.
Now is the time to be bold. Embed innovation, embrace new technologies, and become more attractive to a new wave of workers who are ready to help your business grow into the future. Are you ready to take the first step?
About the author:
Zac Duff is the co-founder and CEO of JigSpace, the platform for creating and sharing interactive, 3D presentations for anything. Find out more at: https://jig.space/
 CEO Survey 2023: Skills and Workforce Research Note, AI Group
 Why attracting and retaining the top Millennial talent is key to future success, PWC
 Why employee development should be HR’s top priority, Culture Amp