Technology Record - Issue 30: Autumn 2023

FEATURE The manufacturing industry is currently navigating a complex landscape of challenges when it comes to attracting, nurturing and retaining talented employees with the skills they need to work productively and efficiently in the digital workplace. “There are several factors impacting the industry in terms of talent,” says Alfonso Rodriguez Lepage, Microsoft’s director of product marketing for manufacturing. “First, there is a generational transition underway, where highly skilled workers with decades of institutional knowledge are nearing the age of retirement. Secondly, the industry is facing competition to attract and retain workers, as newer generations have different expectations about where and how they work. And lastly, once new talent is secured, the onboarding and upskilling of these workers is a slow and costly process for companies.” Manufacturers are also contending with challenges caused by the widening skills gap, particularly in relation to finding employees who are able to work competently with new digital technologies. “Manufacturers are facing strong competition for coveted talent with digital skills,” says Rodriguez. “An example of this is engineers that are critical for manufacturing operations, from design and engineering to production and supply chain. To mitigate this fierce talent market, manufacturers are investing in upskilling their existing workforce, and this is where technology can play a significant role in enabling workers.” To address these challenges, manufacturers are focusing on creating an enriching work environment that nurtures existing employees and attracts new personnel, but how can that be achieved? What are the best practices and types of technologies that can be employed to help them reach these goals? For Microsoft, creating a growth mindset culture is vital. The first step for manufacturing customers, Rodriguez advises, is to enable workers with the right technology skills and tools. According to Microsoft’s 2022 Technology Can Help Unlock a New Future for Frontline Workers report, 63 per cent of frontline manufacturing workers are “excited” about the job opportunities that technology creates. However, they said that they are held back by not being involved early in the decision-making process for new technology initiatives. “The manufacturing workforce is highly skilled,” says Rodriguez. “Collaboration between employees and experts is essential for success. “Organisational transformation is successful when all employees are unified and working with shared values and ideas. The leaders must start Microsoft’s Alfonso Rodriguez Lepage explains how technology is helping manufacturers address the biggest workforce challenges they face today, and the role Microsoft products can play BY RICHARD HUMPHREYS Effectively 136 equipping frontline workers