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Opening New Doors

New and challenging efforts take us out of our comfort zone, and that's okay.

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Industrial Equipment News published its first issue in 1933, and the ensuing 90 years saw countless advancements, peaks and valleys — from a time before computers to one where we couldn’t imagine operating without the technology at hand.

The intense changes over the last century have impacted every business in dramatic ways, including our own. And even though some days I feel like an old dog wary of new tricks, that doesn’t stop us from stepping up our game and tweaking our approach to reaching our audience of manufacturers.

In February of 2021, we first launched the Today in Manufacturing podcast, a panel where several members of IEN’s editorial team (myself included) discuss the top stories of the week and their implications on the industry moving forward. And while cogently expressing your thoughts on a complex topic can be tough, it helps when you’re surrounded by trusted colleagues and two videographers who can edit out the coughs and curse words.

More recently, I’ve been given the opportunity to appear on a few other industry podcasts as a guest — an exercise in humility as I find myself on the other side of the interview where, instead of holding the mike, I’m in the hot seat. I have to admit, it’s been a challenge. And while the hosts of these podcasts (Tom Raftery’s Digital Supply Chain Podcast and Scott MacKenzie’s Industrial Talk) couldn’t have been nicer, more prepared or more professional, it still had me on my toes. What if I couldn’t deliver? Was this worth it?

The short answer is most certainly yes. Challenges that target your most compelling potential outcomes – in our case, bringing some visibility to our own podcast and also collaborating with other industry experts – are often worth the time and preparation required to make them happen and the jitters that might come along with their execution.

For manufacturers, the most compelling potential outcomes – at least right now – tend to be workforce-related, and it appears many businesses are also getting out of their comfort zones.

The Society for Human Resource Management recently emphasized the workforce challenges facing industry and how they should be addressed through specific efforts that target “creativity, partnerships and an image reboot.”

SHRM’s Kathy Gurchiek explores some of these ways in a July, 2023 article — most notably emphasizing the importance of creating a career path for the younger workers who may not consider manufacturing today.

Gurchiek provides examples, including one in Tennessee, where the state is offering free technical education paired with partnerships with auto companies like Nissan and Volkswagen.

Perhaps these types of efforts seem daunting, but the article goes on to define ways in which companies can augment their current approach by relying on new methods for recruitment, without requiring government programs or other partnerships. These might take the form of an outreach program that targets vocational students or recruitment via social media.

Further efforts come from technology, where AI tools can enhance onboarding and save businesses from extensive, long-term training efforts or, worse, the need to hire workers who already possess a scarce and defined skill set.

Speaking of skills, NAM recently produced a webinar offering tips for businesses who wish to get involved in this year’s MFG Day. Titled “Making the Most of Your Event,” it focused on efforts that were decidedly different than the core competencies of most HR departments. Host and Manufacturing Institute Director of Student Engagement, Jen White, outlined ways manufacturing businesses could put their best foot forward. Examples explored by White and a panel of manufacturing industry stakeholders included the classic “open house,” of course. But they also suggest businesses ramp up with customized, hands-on activities that target the interests of the younger generation. Additionally, don’t just invite potential employees; invite their parents and their school administrators as a way of expanding the circle and tapping into the influential figures in their lives — not to mention making an impact on those who have decision-making power that could boost the efficacy of your outreach for future groups.

Most importantly, according to the panel, is finding ways to authentically connect with those you are trying to reach — a taller order outside of just opening your doors to them. And if it’s a little outside of your comfort zone... so what? It probably just means it’s worth doing to begin with.

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