Shaping tomorrow’s manufacturing workforce through Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

USA General Manager Rob Camp describes how Mind Tools can help advance DEI within manufacturing organizations.

Written by Rob Camp
Published 15 June 2021
Shaping tomorrow’s manufacturing workforce through Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Over the past year we have all been part of a global conversation about race and equality which has had tremendous ramifications across every part of our society. Whether in our politics, our professional or our personal lives, we increasingly recognize the importance of finding new ways to think and talk about diversity and inclusion. 

It’s an issue that has preoccupied the corporate world for a while, of course, and the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements have only encouraged businesses to accelerate their Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) journey. HR leaders are urgently looking at how they can address inequity within their workplace and ensure that everyone, from the boardroom to the shop floor, is given the same opportunity to learn, develop and succeed. 

One part of the economy that has historically lagged behind others in their progress on DEI is the manufacturing sector. But industry leaders are now putting their minds to catching up, and there is no doubt that progress is being made. 

The time for change is now

In the US the manufacturing industry employs almost 13 million people. Yet for a variety of historical reasons the workforce is predominantly male and lacks ethnic diversity. It’s a legacy that is proving hard to shake off, with one in four women thinking about leaving the industry and other underrepresented groups feeling equally disillusioned. 

Given the obvious need to attract and retain the best possible people (and a clear skill shortage) the National Association of Manufacturers has promised that things will improve.  

Last year it pledged to take 50,000 tangible actions to increase equity and parity for underrepresented communities, creating 300,000 pathways to job opportunities for black people and people of all color in the US, so that by 2030 manufacturing reflects the diversity of the overall US workforce. 

Of course, this is easier said than done. A report by Workable found that while everyone agrees that DEI is the right thing to do, those in manufacturing are much more likely to say that they don’t know where to start. (22.4% - more than double that of any other sector). 

Yet the irony is that manufacturing companies are probably the best placed of all companies to embrace DEI. 

That’s because their leaders have the exact skills - problem-solving, creativity, adapting to change and working in an agile, dynamic style - that are crucial for building more diverse organizations.  

Using data to drive progress

One area that all manufacturing companies are falling behind the benchmark in is collecting and understanding data to measure DEI program progress, set targets and effect change. Whether the data is collected from hiring and promotion figures or employee pulse surveys, performance reviews and exit interviews, each provides vital information which can help identify areas for improvement and opportunity. 

The use of data to measure progress and develop best practice is a vital tool for ensuring that that firms always stay at the forefront of progressive practices. 

So too is giving your employees the tools and skills to succeed. And this is where the manufacturing sector really does have an advantage. 

Empower your employee groups

It’s becoming commonplace for organizations to create employee resource groups (ERGs) that serve to advocate for positive change around DEI – and the manufacturing sector is no exception. ERGs are critical for companies to draw insights that can guide company policy on DEI issues. Providing these groups with the right resources to help them in their roles is crucial.  

Embrace a continuous learning mindset

Every manufacturing organization already embraces on-the-job training and continued professional development. Without it, they simply could not survive. 

Yet this is often limited to the core technical skills required for individuals to perform their daily tasks. It can be harder to encourage young employees to take the time out of their busy workday to focus on developing the other professional competencies that could provide them with the opportunity to progress.  

And while it is relatively easy to deliver traditional training workshops to senior manager and leaders, it can be tricky to reach the next generation of potential leaders on the factory floor who might prefer to engage with more modern formats, such as mobile and app-based learning, social collaboration, gamification and video content.  

With the advent of online, dynamic learning however, it’s never been easier to democratize  learning and make it easy for everyone in the organization – whether they work on the factory floor or are office or home based - to access the content that is right for them, in the format they need, whenever they want. 

How Mind Tools for Business can help. 

Our e-learning toolkits can help L&D provide their learners with options for where, when and how they learn, so the user is provided with the right information at a time that suits them. This flexibility and mobility helps to increase learner engagement. 

In order to accommodate consumer learners, relevant content is easily accessible and available 24/7, on any device. By utilizing micro-learning, L&D are able to develop the knowledge of their employees at pace and within the flow of work. 

We’ll work in partnership with you to carefully create the right material to engage your employees and produce results. For the DEI agenda this could mean developing bite-size training modules that focus specifically on personal performance and development. Or it could look at different ways in which managers and teams can support the organization’s recruitment, coaching and mentoring programs. 

Whatever the topic, the audience or the learning style, we can create a dynamic, engaging learning package that’s just right for your organization and your people. 

You already have the skills within your business. Now you just have to unlock them

In short, any manufacturing organization wanting to promote diversity, equity and inclusion within their workforce should first of all focus on what they already do well.   

Look at the data. Break the tasks down into small, practical, measurable steps.  Find the opportunities for continuous learning and improvement. Encourage innovation from the ground up. Train your people to solve problems and advocate for real progress. 

There’s no doubt the DEI challenges within the manufacturing sector are real. So too is the ability of those working within it to bring about real change. 

Speak to a manufacturing expert  

Mind Tools for Business works with manufacturing organizations to help transform their learning approach. 

We’d be delighted to show you how we can help you advance DEI within your organization. Just get in touch with our team below. 

Find out more

About the author

Rob Camp

Rob Camp

General Manager - US

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