For industries that rely heavily on the technical skills and knowledge of older workers, the Great Resignation is a major concern of  employers. The manufacturing workforce is rapidly aging and entering retirement age. Already, half of all people aged 55 and older have left the workforce, and many more will follow in the coming years. Manufacturers that aren’t prepared could lose a wealth of institutional knowledge in the process.

Unfortunately, passing information on to the next generation of the labor force involves many barriers. Aside from the logistics of capturing knowledge and educating people, it is important to create an environment of mentoring younger employees. Also, seasoned veteran workers may also be unaware of how much valuable information they have to share. Collecting institutional knowledge and transferring it to new hires is critical for controlling manufacturing labor costs and avoiding delays from the Great Retirement. Here’s what you need to know.

Knowledge You Should Capture

The knowledge and process familiarity employees gain over the years enable efficiency gains, workarounds for equipment limitations, and much more. Since these workers have years of experience and so much information they could share as a result, it’s important to focus on what matters most, including:

  • Daily operations insights
  • Processes for maximizing uptime
  • Maintenance tips
  • How to troubleshoot equipment and workflow issues

Aside from the basics, remember to keep in mind your organization’s goals and prioritize gathering knowledge that pertains to them.

How to Improve Knowledge Transfer for Lower Manufacturing Labor Costs

Manufacturers have many options for facilitating knowledge transfer between employees, and leaders should utilize as many as are necessary and manageable. Here are some of the most effective strategies for engaging employees and encouraging them to share their wisdom:

  • The coaching system. Match senior workers to new hires or junior employees for apprenticeship-style, on-the-job training. New workers can learn the skills they need to succeed in their job directly from their coworkers with the most experience.
  • Continuous improvement meetings. If you already conduct daily or weekly standup meetings to control manufacturing labor costs, they can be a great way to facilitate knowledge transfer. During these meetings, open the floor to comments and concerns about what coworkers have observed about each others’ performance, allowing senior employees to provide feedback about how processes were executed. This will get new employees up to speed and can also help evolve standard operating procedures (SOPs) with better practices.
  • One-on-ones. Group settings are not everyone’s favorite place to share feedback, especially if criticism is involved. Conduct regular one-on-one check-ins and remind senior employees of their status and experience. Solicit their insight about current processes and procedures and find out if they recommend any improvements.
  • Workflow shadowing. Seasoned employees become so used to their workflows they may not be consciously aware of the nuances of their job and the adaptations they’ve made over the years. Managers should schedule time to observe employees at work to see exactly how they do what they do, and even ask for walkthroughs of different workflows. During the process, they can observe subtle deviations from standard procedure that save time or prevent issues and document them accordingly.
  • Video tutorials. Thanks to the ease of filming, editing, and hosting videos, many manufacturers have workers document their processes on camera. Videos are easy to host on company servers and share with employees for new hire and training purposes. Oftentimes, equipment manufacturers will provide their own instructional video content to improve the user experience.
  • Training and teaching programs. If any employees show promise as a mentor, recruit them to host their own training exercises. This can help ensure all employees operate according to the same high standards set by seniors who have been in the trenches for many years. Some long-term workers may even find this new role as a mentor reinvigorating and a welcome change of pace after years of the same type of work.

Knowledge transfer is essential for controlling manufacturing labor costs and avoiding brain drain from the Great Retirement. Implementing some of these strategies will ensure the next generation of your workforce has the skills, tools, and insight needed to drive results. In addition, enhanced training can increase engagement for both incoming and outgoing employees.

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