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How to Approach Workforce Development, Worker Safety Today

What does workforce development look like in 2021 and beyond as workplace safety and company culture continue to be extremely important? Emerging leaders, industry organizations, and OEMs share how they are progressing.

Quick hits:

  • How to improve employee safety during COVID-19
    • Require and provide personal protective equipment (PPE) and space
    • Monitor Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines regularly
    • Offer vaccine access, education, and resources to employees
  • How to shift and improve workplace culture
    • Adopt diversity and inclusion as a core mission
    • Take workforce development digital
    • Develop remote onboarding processes
    • Support remote work and build in flexibility

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Hi, my name is Natalie Craig. I'm the managing editor of OEM Magazine, and today I'm going to be talking to you about shifting workplace culture and protecting your people.

As we are still experiencing the COVID-19 pandemic, the way we have done business has drastically changed, and the way that companies are handling workforce development and their culture has also shifted, but not nearly enough. According to many OEMs, emerging leaders, and component suppliers, the culture still needs to shift, and I'm going to show you a couple of ways that OEMs are taking an innovative approach to their workforce development practices and their culture to help keep their employees happy, engaged, and safe.

One thing is top of mind for OEMs, that's employee safety. And employees also want to feel like they're being kept in the loop of the guidance from the CDC, as well as what their workplace is doing to make sure that they're always safe.

So while it's clear that a lot of your employees have to come in and work closely with their colleagues, they don't necessarily have an option to work remotely, it's important to provide physical safety measures, like providing personal protective equipment, also known as PPE, and space. Social distancing is still really important on the facility floor. You're going to always want to monitor Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC, guidelines, regularly, so that you can make sure that your workplace is up-to-date on the latest guidelines.

You also might want to offer vaccine access education and resources to employees. Pearson Packaging System is doing this. They're based in Washington, and they were one of the first states to get hit with the COVID-19 pandemic almost two years ago. So they've been very on par with offering access education resources and guidance to employees. They highly recommend that other OEMs do the same for their employees.

Aside from workplace safety, there are other conversations that are happening on the shop floor and among management teams. One of those being how to shift and improve the workplace culture. COVID-19 enforced a lot of changes across the board when it came to workforce development and culture, and management and employees are finding ways to improve that culture and use this as an opportunity to really adopt new practices and initiatives. One of those things being adopting diversity and inclusion as a core mission. A survey from Glassdoor found that 76% of millennials and Gen Z job seekers expressed diversity and inclusion was very important to them when they were looking for a job.

Now, this is critical for manufacturers because we currently are facing a skills gap and also a workforce shortage. So it's really important to adopt missions like this into your workplace culture so that you can appeal to the upcoming generations.

Something else for manufacturers to consider is how they can take their workforce development initiatives digitally. We talked to a fabricator who made really informative webinars for Manufacturing Day, which happens in October. This was not only allowing him to open up his facility doors digitally without having people come in to his local community, and he was also able to expand his reach. He said that he reached educators, parents, and teachers all the way in California and across the country. So this was a very huge success and it made this company think about how they could do other things digitally when it comes to workforce development.

And that takes me to my next point. It's also really important to develop remote and onboarding processes, especially now that people are onboarding and hiring people who don't live locally. You're going to want to build a process that makes remote employees feel supported and connected to your company's culture. We talked with Intralox more about this and how they are creating these processes and how their remote onboarding employees who live in other states.

Another culture shift that manufacturers are going to want to take is they're going to want to support remote work and build in more flexibility. The impact of COVID-19 on women and working mothers was absolutely devastating. An estimated 2.4 million women left labor market between February 2020 and February 2021. Now, manufacturing cannot afford to lose this many women or this much talent at a time where we're facing the skills gap and the labor shortage. So we spoke with women in manufacturing association about how to recruit and retain more women and more employees. One of the things that they mentioned was supporting remote work and making sure your employees who are working remotely feel connected, and that they also have the opportunity to have better work life balance.

We know that it takes a lot to improve and change company culture, which is why we provided some resources that manufacturers can leverage for culture, workforce development, and worker safety. You can check out these resources at

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