The manufacturing industry is hurting. For years the industry declined in the U.S. for a variety of reasons in the business environment. Now, the industry is facing a renaissance but can’t find enough people to bring a new manufacturing era into existence.

I’m writing about this industry because I was inspired to hear at a State of Manufacturing event in May 2016 that workforce education is a key issue. Being a learning and development professional, I nodded my head enthusiastically with every point the business owners of Minnesota manufacturing companies made about needing people who could not only drive production but innovation as well.

“This is it!” I decided, “This is an industry that’s as ready to transform their workplace development. I can be of service here.” The more informational interviews I complete, and the more research I read, it’s become clear that the need for change, and the tools to manage the change, have a significant rift.

To bring about necessary changes to talent development, industry leaders must begin by breaking through the inertia of what learning and development have meant in the past.forces for change

We must be willing to spend our resources on change in order to make it. These resources come in a variety of forms: thoughts, time, and money. If U.S. manufacturers wish to, once again, become the crown jewel of our economy’s GDP, leaders must be willing to examine the forces for and against change.

In fact, companies that can’t adapt or innovate will find themselves out of business before long. It’s important to remember that any company is a collection of people — people who have different levels of tolerance for change.

Let’s first look at the driving forces for change and some common reasons people resist change.

Driving Forces:Why change the talent development paradigm?

Why change the talent development paradigm?

  • Higher revenues
  • More innovative products
  • Competitive advantage
  • Greater market share
  • Higher productivity
  • More profit
  • Greater opportunities for advancement

Restraining Forces:

What’s holding us back?

  • Fear of the unknown
  • Expectation of loss
  • Aversion to risk
  • Hidden agendas
  • Fear of incompetence
  • Heavy investment in the “old ways”
  • Previous failed change effortschallenge to change

Following are some common strategies to persuade and motivate people toward change that can keep the company moving forward.

  • Ensure your leadership has the appropriate tools to manage change
  • Encourage involvement in the planning and implementation stages
  • Break the change down into small steps to get people used to it
  • Front-load rewards to support people during the most difficult early stages
  • Make it safe to make mistakes and try new things
  • Provide guidance and training for learning new tasks
  • Sympathize with negative feelings and reinforce the change
  • Make it easy to get started by easing into the tougher steps
  • Stay committed to implementing the change – even when it’s difficult

Instituting these strategies can ease the burden of change on those who are on the front lines and responsible for making it work. It’s not necessary to change every process and practice at once. What’s important is to get started.

If your leaders aren’t able to guide the organization through the sea of inevitable environmental changes, you may find the challenge of the talent gap taking second place to staying in business.

In next week’s blog post, I’ll make a specific case for a reimagined talent development landscape in the manufacturing industry.

Until then, feel free to share your experience with guiding a company through changes in the comments.


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