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Emerging Technology: The Solution to Today's Aging Workforce

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It’s no secret that industrial industries are being impacted by the aging workforce. In fact, Gartner recently reported this trend as one of the top challenges in the utilities industry, while other markets like manufacturing are feeling the strain as an aging workforce causes knowledge loss that leads to dips in productivity.

As these industries are struggling with the skills shortages that come with an aging workforce and the unknown timeline of overlap between experienced and junior employees, new technologies are emerging to help close this gap and alleviate some of the pressures.

Challenges with traditional methods
In the past, it was easier to anticipate workers’ retirements since they were driven by their defined benefit pension plan. Replacements would be hired according to this timeline, with enough time to allow for training and knowledge transfer. However, today, most employees rely on contribution plans such as their 401(k) for retirement, so they are working longer and retirement dates become less certain. When you couple this with the fact that staffing levels across the industrial industry are lower than ever before, it’s becoming more difficult for new and more junior staff to train side-by-side with experienced workers.

Organizations have the option to continue operating as they always have by just making new hires to replace those who are retiring and leaving the workforce. Aging workers can train their replacements, but this comes with challenges. First of which is finding the right person to conduct these trainings. And second is that new employees are likely much younger and more junior, making them naturally hesitate at antiquated, less-automated methods of doing the job. Additionally, the training time will be fairly unpredictable since it relies on new employees’ background, experience and ability to pick up on tasks. Finally, retiring workers’ actual retirement dates are hard to predict, making it near-impossible to determine the best timing when it comes to hiring and training.

Automated technology to the rescue
All that said, companies need to ditch this archaic method and start embracing technology as the best way to compensate for today’s aging workforce. This involves automating jobs and daily processes to the greatest extent that is conceivable and/or practical.

The tasks of engineers or data analysts in industrial environments, for example, can be automated so much so that retiring workers can focus on training new employees on making final decisions as opposed to the full process. Activities like predictive maintenance of industrial plants can now be done with wireless monitoring instruments that can actually cut time and cost by 50 percent. This technology automatically provides raw data to analytics software (instead of employees having to gather, analyze and assess the data) and can predict problems before they occur. This frees up employees’ time to focus on other critical job functions that require a human touch, resulting in less training on outdated tasks and functions that will not serve the business.

Companies that put automated systems for tasks like monitoring, data collection and analysis into place will find that new employees are up to speed in a matter of weeks or months, instead of years. Not only will this approach ensure that employees are most productive, it will also cut time and cost for your organization along the way. As your company is looking to combat the aging workforce, consider these solutions for a more seamless transition.



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