Deloitte’s guide to achieving a net zero workforce in manufacturing

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The energy transition and digital transformation are rapidly changing what work we do, how we do it and where we do it. However, growing competition for both sustainability and digital competencies, an ageing workforce, fewer new recruits and a lack of diversity all point to increasing skills challenges in the future.

As smart factory principles and technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics and the Internet of Things advance, manufacturers will require digital skills and create roles and career pathways that do not exist today.

How do manufacturing companies know what skills, knowledge and capabilities they will need in the future?

The net zero manufacturing workforce will be unrecognisable to the workforce of ten, or even five, years ago. Below is a break-down of the principles of a net zero manufacturing workforce and a roadmap for leaders on how to build their own net zero workforce.

What is the net zero workforce?

Highly transferable skills including collaboration and social intelligence, as well as more technical skills such as cybersecurity, regulatory or commercial strategy skills may become more important than industry knowledge or experience. The graphic below highlights the skills and competencies of the manufacturing net zero workforce:

The critical elements required to achieve net zero - image courtesy of Deloitte.
The critical elements required to achieve net zero – image courtesy of Deloitte.

Three pillars to build the net zero workforce in manufacturing:

  1. Re-architect work – Re-evaluate what is expected of your workforce

Robotics, cognitive technologies and AI help people focus on more strategic and value-adding activities.

Questions for manufacturing leaders to ask:

  • How are you structuring work to make your workforce’s activities more efficient? What should this job do, what should it stop doing. How can automation help?
  • In addition to automation, how are you using technology to enhance your workforce’s skills and capabilities?
  • How can you turn work from task completion to problem solving and managing relationships?
  • Which roles can be performed sustainably on a remote or hybrid basis?
  1. Unleash the net zero workforce – How to develop your people and recruit for the future

Access to broader talent pools in adjacent industries help shift the focus from structure to capabilities and potential.

Questions for manufacturing leaders to ask:

  • How do you motivate and reward your workforce to align with your decarbonisation goals?
  • Do your hiring strategies help you compete for non-energy industry specific skills?
  • How can you build internal talent marketplaces that identify technical skills, competencies and interests as well as proficiency levels?
  • How can you curate personalised experiences to maximise your workforce’s potential?
  1. Adapt the workplace – How will your workplace reflect modern, hybrid working practices?

New combinations of collaborative teaming and digital technologies provide flexibility on where and when work gets done.

Questions for manufacturing leaders:

  • How can you shift the focus from a physical workplace without losing the organisation’s sense of culture and belonging?
  • How can you redesign the workplace so that it becomes a place of collaboration, innovation and personal connection?
  • How can you create a diverse and inclusive culture that empowers and enables the workforce?
  • To what extent will you embrace remote working that could allow you to recruit from a wider talent pool?

Manufacturing companies that change their workforce approach and create an environment for attracting and fostering the right balance of soft and digital skills and capabilities will create a highly motivated workforce that’s ready to deliver your decarbonisation goals. This will result in a cleaner, brighter and more sustainable future for the benefit of both business and wider society.


For further insights join Nick Davis, UK Industry 4.0 Leader at Deloitte, for a Leadership and Strategy session at the Smart Factory Expo on 11 November, 2021.

Download the full article: The net zero workforce: What decarbonisation means for the future of work in manufacturing

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