How growing businesses can become more sustainable

Posted on 5 Dec 2019 by The Manufacturer

The enduring challenge for manufacturers today is the task of attracting new talent, while ensuring those already within the organisation feel they have the opportunity to grow and progress.

Faced with a rapidly evaporating talent pool, how can manufacturers attract the skills required to secure business sustainability and the capacity to innovate?

CROP -Engineer Teaching Apprentice Apprenticeship Levy Training Skills Lifelong Learning - image courtesy of Depositphotos.

The question grounded the discussion at an exclusive breakfast briefing which gathered together industry leaders from a broad range of manufacturing and engineering businesses, with operations across the UK.

The representatives from automotive, steel construction and engineering technology organisations were all keen to discuss the challenges and opportunities surrounding skills and talent development – a perennial focus for all their businesses.

The gathering was co-hosted by The Manufacturer and Dassault Systèmes, one of the world’s leading technology solution providers, and was held as part of Digital Manufacturing Week 2019.

Dassault Systèmes has been recognised as the world’s most sustainable company thanks to its holistic sustainability strategy, from reducing its environmental footprint, to developing the workforce of the future and driving the definition of new business models in today’s Industry Renaissance.

Dassault Systèmes has defined three pillars that enable companies to achieve sustainable manufacturing, create value and grow as a business: people, operations optimisation and value network orchestration.

John Kitchingman took to the main stage at Manufacturing Leaders’ Summit 2019 to explain what business sustainability actually means and how can it be achieved CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE

“The first pillar is people. Tomorrow’s most successful and sustainable companies will be those that empower their people to do work and build innovation with the best knowledge and know-how,” explained said John Kitchingman, managing director for EuroNorth at Dassault Systèmes.

“Capturing knowledge and know-how from today’s workforce provides the inspiration for future workers. It’s about connecting the dots between people, ideas and data inside and outside a company and having this know-how readily available on demand.”

Workforce of the future

Proceedings began with a discussion of what the businesses represented around the table were doing to engage the ‘workforce of the future’ and what challenges they faced as a result.

“We as employers need to understand what is driving the next generation and what motivates them because young people have very different aspirations to previous generations,” noted one attendee.

CROP - Happy multicultural teens sitting on sofa with digital devices - Generation Z Young People Skills - image courtesy of Depositphotos.

“Young people may not approach the opportunity to earn more through overtime, for example, as highly as your past or current employees do. Conversely, older workers may not place such a high value on flexible working conditions and social, team-bonding events as your new recruits do.”

The increasing digitalisation of production combined with the need for multi-disciplined workers comfortable with constant disruption, means many manufacturers are actively looking to draw talent from more diverse and varied labour pools.

Yet, many around the table voiced frustrations at still not being able to attract people with the right skills and were looking for innovative solutions from those present.

Dassault Systèmes has hit upon a novel technique to make careers and those who have them more visible. The strategy helps to create aspirational role models, a vital step in not only attracting a younger demographic, but a more diverse cross-section of society.

“PowerPoints are fine, but among the next generation they’re a non-starter. They’re simply not interested,” one Dassault ambassador said. “As a result, we’ve begun experimenting with the use of employee ‘storyboards’ and we’ve been really pleased with the results.”

“It’s about creating a community,” they continued. “When people see themselves, their experiences or their concerns reflected back in a personal story from someone within the industry who has lived it, then they can engage with it on a much deeper level.”

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Collaboration, communication and leadership

Whether integrating new talent or upskilling existing employees, organisations can often struggle to successfully communicate a shared cultural vision and mission statement to all areas of a company. This is often a legacy of how organisations have been traditionally structured.

“Cross-department communication and collaboration can be an issue as people (and the data and systems they work with) are often siloed,” noted one attendee.

“As an industry, we need to begin moving people around inside our organisations and stimulating greater cross-functional knowledge sharing, instead of simply training workers to remain in just one isolated environment or role.”

Another participant urged people to consider that management have great influence over how a company is run, yet managers haven’t necessarily received any formal training in that capacity.

Supervisor and manual worker discussing in industry manufacturing engineering product quality - image courtesy of Depositphotos.

Businesses have a tendency to promote longevity rather than aptitude – particularly related to people management and leadership; which means that we aren’t always managing to get the most out of our people.

“Technical managers are not necessarily good managers,” according to one attendee, who added; “New and old employees alike want to feel engaged, to be part of the whole, and a company having a greater understanding of emotional intelligence and empathy is critical to that.”

The group were unanimous on the need for more and better training of line managers, team leaders and supervisors, particularly in relation to so called ‘soft’ skills, such as empathy, how to manage people (particularly across different generations) and change management.

John Kitchingman noted that value network optimisation was all about fostering transparency, visibility and collaboration within your own organisation, as well as your suppliers and customers.

“With this kind of value network in place, companies can coordinate multiple actors, connecting them quickly and efficiently,” he noted. “A value network like this can only be realised by use of a unified business platform that drives collaboration through a common approach for connecting and utilising information and resources.”

3DEXPERIENCE Platform Dassault Systèmes

By Jonny Williamson & Rory Butler

*All images courtesy of Depositphotos