Survey: Frontline manufacturing workers may leave current company for a more digitally enabled workplace

Nov. 1, 2021
International report also reveals 52% of respondents feel more valued as a frontline worker since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 28, 2021 (PRNewswire) — As companies around the world grapple with the "Great Resignation," new international research from Parsable reveals there is more that urgently needs to be done in order to attract and retain frontline manufacturing talent.

Of note, 45% of frontline manufacturing workers surveyed across five countries say that the opportunity to work in a more modern, digital environment would be part of their decision to leave their current employer. This includes providing mobile technologies, such as a smartphone or tablet, to help them do their jobs better. Currently, less than half (41%) of respondents say their companies have provided such digital tools; 81% rely on paper-based processes to follow instructions and/or keep track of their work.

This data is part of new research – spanning the United States, Germany, France, Spain and the United Kingdom – released today by Parsable, provider of Connected Worker, the leading platform for frontline industrial work.

The report, "The State of the Connected Frontline Manufacturing Worker, 2021," explores frontline manufacturing workers' views on their jobs, the usage of workplace technology, and the pandemic's continuing impact.

A way out of the labor shortage and skills gap

The manufacturing skills gap in the U.S. is predicted to leave as many as 2.1 million jobs unfilled through 2030. Germany, Europe's largest economy, projects that its workforce will shrink by about 4 million by 2030 as the baby boomer generation retires. Convincing younger generations that manufacturing is a future-focused, technologically advanced career choice will become increasingly critical.

Parsable's research found younger workers are more likely to leave their current employers for one that offers a more modern, digital workplace, including mobile technology: Across countries, 55% of respondents aged 18-24 and nearly half (49%) of those aged 25-34 say access to technology factors into such a decision, versus 25% of those aged 55 and older.

U.S.-based frontline manufacturing workers are more likely to leave for this reason (53%), versus 43% of workers in Germany, France, Spain and the U.K. combined.

This finding is aligned with the overall trend of younger workers being less committed to their companies: Across countries, 29% of respondents aged 18-24 plan on staying in their current frontline manufacturing role for less than two years; in contrast, 65% of those aged 55 and older have been in their current jobs for 10 years or more.

"Now more than ever, it's clear that frontline manufacturing workers want and deserve digital technology that helps them do their jobs better, across all generations, but particularly among the digital natives that will be critical in filling the manufacturing labor gap," said Lawrence Whittle, Parsable CEO. "Providing mobile-based digital tools and on-the-job learning opportunities in the formats millennials and Gen Z are accustomed to using will be necessary if manufacturers are to attract and retain new talent to these important roles."

Nearly 2 years in, pandemic has changed workers' outlook

The Parsable survey also revealed that frontline manufacturing workers feel a greater sense of pride in their jobs, and that catching COVID-19 is no longer a top safety concern.

Across countries, 52% of respondents feel more valued as a frontline worker since the COVID-19 pandemic began, although fewer than half (42%) report that their companies have implemented new technology to help them work better as a result of the pandemic.

For those whose companies have provided new digital tools, workers believe the biggest benefit is increased safety (33%). Less than one in four (22%) of overall respondents reported that their primary safety concern at work is getting COVID-19.

Non-digital work processes remain, limiting visibility

Although today's manufacturing facilities are far more technologically advanced, the way that frontline workers follow work procedures and collaborate with each other has largely been unchanged.

The vast majority (81%) of respondents across countries still rely on paper-based processes to follow instructions and/or keep track of their work, even though 80% have no concerns with using digital tools. When it comes to communicating with other team members, the top methods that workers rely on are verbally in-person (76%) and by phone (43%) – neither of which provide the visibility and traceability that digital channels offer.

"The pandemic and resulting labor shortages have made it clear that agility across value chains is imperative. Companies that do not have a plan to implement new technology or rethink how they hire, train and upskill employees will be at a considerable disadvantage," said Whittle. "Empowering the humans at the heart of manufacturing and production with digital connected worker tools will make supply chains – and the overall employee experience – so much stronger at a time when it's most important."

For more information on Parsable's research, download the report and read the Parsable blog.

Parsable launched its online research on Sept. 8, 2021, surveying a total of 1,400 frontline manufacturing workers based in the United States, Germany, France, Spain and the United Kingdom. Survey respondents self-identified as being currently employed in a frontline, hands-on, non-managerial manufacturing role.

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