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Why digital tools are the #1 ask from frontline industrial workers

April 14, 2021

This trend is especially true with the rise of Millennial and Generation Z personnel in the workplace.


Parsable's Lawrence Whittle

The manufacturing industry is currently at a tipping point. In less than four years, per Deloitte, 75% of the workforce will be Millennials, but almost half of this generation has ranked manufacturing as one of their last career choices. 

Millennials are the first generation that grew up with digital technology at their fingertips; when they—and subsequent generations—enter the workforce or join a new company, they expect to be provided with software, technology and other digital tools to help them do their jobs, to be productive, and to be engaged.

In manufacturing, there is a huge opportunity for companies to improve access to “consumer-like” digital technology for their employees, especially those on the frontlines who don't sit at a desk. It is vital that industrial businesses become more agile and adopt new digital tools in order to attract new workers and keep existing talent. 

Parsable recently released a survey report, “The State of Digital and Connected Work on the Manufacturing Frontlines,” to examine the access to—and appetite for—digital tools from the perspective of the industry's frontline, on-the-floor workers. We found that, as a whole, frontline workers are hungry for digital tools, but haven’t been given the opportunity to use these in their daily work lives as much as they'd like. In fact, 72% of respondents have no concerns using modern digital tools, but less than half (47%) have been given mobile technology to help them do their jobs better. 

Workers are clearly indicating that they want a workplace that is going to provide the technology they need. 52% would even be willing to leave their current company to have the opportunity to work in a more digitally enabled environment. These findings highlight the current digital and skills gap that manufacturing is facing. 

By 2028, Deloitte estimates that 2.4 million manufacturing jobs will be unfilled due to a skills shortage. This, combined with Millennials making up most of the workforce in 2025, shows how urgently the industry needs to adapt; companies will have a limited talent pool and will also need to stand out to potential employees. 

Parsable's research shows that Millennial and Generation Z workers tend to have short tenures at companies, as 56% of respondents in those age groups have only been with their current manufacturing employer for less than two years. What’s more, almost one-third are likely to move to a different company within two more years. With the high turnover of these younger generations, companies need to do more to be desirable to employees—both to retain their existing talent and to attract new workers. This starts with adopting the technology that Millennials (and, really, all generations) are asking for, while providing them with the tools they need to be successful in their jobs.

Connected-worker tools can eliminate isolation while improving all aspects of safety, quality and productivity. These technologies enable frontline employees to do their best work by turning inefficient paper-based work instructions, record-keeping and systems into interactive procedures that are accessible via mobile devices; they can collaborate digitally in real-time with their colleagues and subject matter experts; and they can access educational and training resources at the moment those things are need it.

By providing intuitive technology to frontline workers, manufacturers will empower their team members to be more efficient, productive and safe in their jobs, all the while making the company enticing to the new generation of workers. 

Lawrence Whittle is CEO of Parsable