The secret about diversifying your workforce? It just might quicken your digital transformation

Oct. 24, 2018
In an era of transformation, transforming skillsets is critical to staying competitive.

PwC and The Manufacturing Institute—the social-impact arm of the National Association of Manufacturers (N.A.M.)—recently partnered to produce a report titled “All In: Shaping tomorrow's manufacturing workforce through diversity and inclusion,” exploring how U.S. manufacturers are expanding their diversity and inclusion (D&I) programs.

We chatted with Jeff Sorensen, PwC’s industrial products leader, to learn more. Take a look…

Smart Industry: Why are manufacturers doubling down on diversity?

Jeff: Today’s workforce is changing, and if you don’t adapt you won’t be able to remain competitive. The manufacturing sector is at an interesting crossroads where automation and digital technologies are creating new opportunities for the industry, but at the same time they’re experiencing challenges in trying to fill with their current workforce those highly technical, skilled positions. So they need to diversify their approaches on recruiting, retaining and promoting their workforce. And manufacturers realized that one way is to expand their diversity and inclusion programs. Having different perspectives/voices can lead to more effective solutions.

We worked with The Manufacturing Institute on how manufacturers can best accomplish this. We uncovered best practices by speaking with chief diversity officers at manufacturing companies as well as other D&I advocates outside the private sector:

    • Get leadership to spearhead D&I and transmit that message through all ranks of the organization
    • Make D&I a core, daily business-performance issue, not an isolated HR program
    • Master D&I metrics (create a dashboard including all D&I-related recruiting, hiring, retention, promotion and leadership data)
    • Tie D&I performance to overall performance/compensation
    • Organize and empower D&I employee resource groups (ERGs)
    • Cross-pollinate ideas across functions and geographies
    • Enable free dialogue–and carry out regular training–around D&I
    • Drive D&I to help close the skills/talent gap
PwC's Jeff Sorensen

Smart Industry: Is manufacturing a historically diverse workforce?

Jeff: No, manufacturing is a white- and male-dominated industry. It faces a steeper climb to widen their representation of non-white and female segments of the population. In 2016, women and blacks comprised 57% and 12.5% of the total U.S. labor force, respectively, yet represented only 29% and 10% of the manufacturing sector. The industry has typically been seen a “hard hat” environment, not amenable to women. It has been dominated by white men who have historically recruited their own family members or similar networks.

Smart Industry: How does automation affect the diversification of the modern workforce?

Jeff: More manufacturing companies are embracing automation and digital technologies. This requires rewriting or creating new job descriptions to attract candidates with different skill sets that, perhaps, weren’t needed in the past.

Today, 13.7% of the U.S. population (44.5 million people) is foreign-born. This is the highest percentage recorded since 1910, according to recent figures from the Census Bureau. While women comprise about 57% of the total U.S. labor force, they represent one of manufacturing’s largest untapped pools of talent at just 29% of the manufacturing workforce.

It’s not necessarily that automation is creating a diverse, modern workforce – it’s just how the world is changing. Manufacturers will have to keep up to remain competitive.

Smart Industry: How does the changing nature of the workforce influence recruiting/hiring/retention?

Jeff: U.S. manufacturers face a steeper climb to draw new talent during an increasingly tight labor market, making it even more of an imperative for them to expand D&I initiatives and embed them into their organizations as a core business goal.

D&I will play an increasingly pivotal role in the manufacturing industry as it seeks greater breadth of experience and backgrounds to spur innovation. To attract a diverse workforce, companies should build an effective and sustaining D&I culture. They should make it a daily business concern and priority, and tying that to job performance is one way to achieve this.

Smart Industry: Which best practice in the report would readers find most surprising?

Jeff: The most surprising trend from the report and speaking with diversity officers was the rising importance of employee resource groups.

Traditionally, D&I has been a top-to-bottom directive, coming from the C-suite and the HR department. But now there is a powerful rise from ERGs influencing companies from the grassroots levels and affecting cultures upward and across organizations. The sheer number of ERGs across industries is really impressive. It suggest a real movement.