06 Apr How to combat the risks of the “anywhere” employee in manufacturing
by Chris Larsen, Tom Lovell
Over 40 percent of America’s workforce is continuing to work remotely through 2021, and it’s predicted that nearly a quarter of the workforce will remain “anywhere” employees by 2025—an 87 percent increase from pre-pandemic numbers. To be sure, having the technology and network infrastructure already in existence to swiftly support these “anywhere” employees has been a godsend. But in the long run, there are risks that need to be mitigated when half the company is working remotely, as well as new habits and technologies that need to be firmly established and adopted.
As manufacturing organizations across the globe adapt to a remote work culture that’s set to stay long past the pandemic, there are naturally many concerns about these “anywhere” employees. If customer service, sales, channel partners, and more are all working remotely, there are bound to be fundamental changes to how work gets done in your company. The sooner your company addresses the risks associated with these changes, the more agile and prepared for the future of work you’ll be.
In this blog, we’ll address three core risks that come with the “anywhere” employee in manufacturing and how IT decision-makers in the industry can provide comprehensive solutions to them.
More disconnect between front and back-office departments → Leverage messaging on multiple channels
Even in the before times—when corona was just a drink and our passports weren’t so dusty—there was still a consistent struggle to keep front and back-office workers efficiently connected and in sync. Now with the added ingredient of remote work, that threat looms ever larger. But the need for seamless collaboration between corporate knowledge workers and factory floor/warehouse workers is critical in any time and setting. To fix this, it’s time manufacturers leverage communication tools across multiple channels. What used to be done by a quick walk up or downstairs now must be done with some typing and clicks.
Manufacturers ought to exploit the best communication channels in multiple categories: asynchronous (email, SMS, recorded videos), synchronous (video conferencing, phone calls), just-in-time alerts, in-context messaging feeds. Workers who may not have been actively involved with CRM platforms in the past may need to be now if that’s where the communication is happening (and if you’re doing things right, it is happening on CRM with the Salesforce Chatter feed supplying in-context project and fulfillment messaging).
Take some time to identify multiple channels of communication. There’s no shortage of options, so pick the ones best suited to your business and your teams. But don’t rely on just one method to keep the conversation going (just think of how many things get lost when they’re only addressed over email). It’s estimated that it takes seven interactions for a message to stick. So if you have multiple communication channels involved, you have multiple checks on the process making sure work gets done.
Less ad hoc conversations → Increase notification automations
With so much of your team now working from the comfort of their own home, the office hallways just got a lot quieter. Watercooler chats, post-work happy hours, lunchroom discussions, and hallway walk n’ talks—all gone or dramatically reduced. This loss of ad hoc conversations isn’t just a concern for the company culture and the social well-being of your employees. It can also threaten your business productivity
Useful information is regularly exchanged in these informal settings, not just in regularly scheduled meetings. When the informal venue is removed from the equation though, will your team members still exchange those quick status updates and project feedback? You probably don’t want to leave the answer up to chance. It’s time to not only increase the channels for ad hoc conversations but also amplify the automated notifications on those channels. This will help make up the productivity you didn’t realize you were losing when your team no longer calls the same street address “work.”
Statusing and updating are critical to keeping projects in motion and customer orders fulfilled. The influx of automated alert notifications, however, isn’t necessarily welcome. It can be a huge pain when the top right corner of the screen won’t stop flashing, the inbox gets overly crowded, and you find yourself an unintentional connoisseur of alert beeps. That leaves you with two choices: wrangle the notifications with more context/less disruption or risk such reduced contact you regularly miss crucial information. The information from automated notifications can be sorted into its groupings and digested in an aggregated way that boosts productivity, rather than a flood that just drives you nuts. With smart, subtle notification automations firmly established through a fully integrated digital system, you can keep business moving without becoming a spam machine to your employees.
Longer turnaround times → Digitally transform internal and external processes
Finally, after optimizing the breadth and volume of communication channels as much as possible, and refining the associated notifications for contextual updating, there is still one in-person element that’s particularly hard to capture and repackage for the anywhere employee: the instantaneousness. When you’re working in the same office space, it’s incredible how information can be sent, received, and acted on in mere seconds. In remote work, however, there’s always at least a little bit of a lag, making the turnaround time much longer as all the little async delays add up.
This is all the more reason for manufacturers to embrace the new communication patterns that emerge from comprehensive digital transformation. With the latest innovative workplace tools involved, manufacturers can increase visibility into each anywhere employee’s calendar and availability. Enhanced digital tools include those that provide free/busy transparency, in-context messaging, GPS automations, collaborative document environments, and many more. This functionality is readily available, but in many manufacturer organizations, it hasn’t been taken advantage of. Now is the time to embrace these tools and train your staff on them. Digital transformation helps manufacturers integrate all the new communication channels they’re embracing, while simultaneously accommodating for the increase in engaged users across those channels. It’s not just about putting up a sleek digital front for the external customers—it’s about creating that seamlessness of processes internally, as well. Current employees can boost their productivity in a remote environment through digital transformation, and prospective employees will be more attracted to a manufacturing organization with a comprehensive transformation strategy at work.
Ultimately, digital transformation for manufacturers is about getting that relentless “can-do” attitude so trademark to manufacturing to translate into virtual work relationships. Walking out onto the shop floor is great, but being just as equipped and comfortable to communicate that same information through a screen to remote workers is the path forward for more connected, future-proof businesses. Salesforce as the foundational CRM system makes the transformation of both those internal and external processes not just possible, but seamlessly built around industry needs.
The technology is ready and at your fingertips—it’s time to start using it for more connected, effective, and profitable communication. Manufacturers can ward off the threats of constrained communication and constrained physical presence by making the “anywhere” employees of the future work for their individual needs. All it takes is a little bit of cloud tech support. Get started with Simplus’ experts in manufacturing digital transformation today.
Tom is VP, Manufacturing CoE here at Simplus. For over 15 years, Tom has helped companies implement data and process-driven strategies to bridge the gap between business and IT. These strategies have improved patient outcomes, reduced financial risk, and improved operational efficiency in healthcare organizations while bringing to bear streamlined costs, reduced risk, and improved revenue at manufacturers. His passion is architecting and sharing practical solutions that deliver valuable results for customers.
Chris is Simplus’ Director of Strategy (East) for Advisory Services. He has more than 20 years of experience delivering business value from strategy and technology projects, focusing on CRM, field service, cloud services, data integration, and analytics. Chris applies deep experience and proven methodology to successfully facilitate strategic planning and change management across various constituencies. He has led numerous CRM strategy and roadmap engagements, leading to multi-year CRM implementation and optimization programs for large and mid-size companies with global and domestic scope.