The Greatest Resource You Have Is Right Under Your Nose

In a technology-driven world, it’s time to elevate the human element.

HR professionals are always concerned about increasing employee morale and employee effectiveness in their jobs. But the question of how to best accomplish this has been a thorn in the side of HR and Training professionals for decades.

The question of how to motivate and engage employees isn’t going away. In fact, it is more relevant today than it has ever been, particularly in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic and a changing of the generational guard. New generations are entering the workforce, and millions of Baby Boomers are reaching retirement. Yet these new workers have much different motivations and needs than Baby Boomers had.

Clearly, it’s time to reevaluate how we engage workers in each industry. Businesses need to develop methods that align with younger generations’ need for more transparency, satisfaction, and empowerment. And as technology continues to advance, we need to look into using tools that leverage people’s skills and change the work to meet their needs.

Use Technology that Enables Employees

As companies have evolved throughout the information age, a vast number of tools have become available to help improve business processes. In the manufacturing industry, this evolution has been labeled as Industry 4.0, the automation of manufacturing plants utilizing smart factory technologies.

However, the problem we often see is that Industry 4.0 wrongly undervalues the human element. You see this happening in the manufacturing industry today when a company mostly relies on technology to run its production line. The problem with this is that technology sees the world in black and white, or in zeros and ones. Therefore, when something on the floor breaks down, the machine is unable to identify why it happened. It can see the error or the what, but not the how or the why. That causes more frequent and lengthier downtime.

Including and appreciating the human element and human ingenuity with the use of digital technology, which we refer to as Manufacturing 4.0, bridges that gap. Combining employees with empowering software and technology allows problems to be seen, reported, analyzed, and fixed quickly, in real time at the point and time of work. It can even allow problems to be identified before stoppages occur or machinery breaks. From there, employees can shift their work to account for the error and provide better quality control for the company as a whole.

We need to leverage both the employee’s capabilities and Internet of Things (IoT) technology. To do this, we need to provide tools that enable employees. Tools that provide real-time visibility into what is happening on the floor and provide workers with accurate and real-time data. From there, they’ll be in a position to influence their own success, along with the success of the company.

By Enabling, You Are Empowering

Using technology that enables employees will result in a strong company culture. Enabling them provides them with a voice to make decisions, helping them feel they are, in fact, valued and that their decisions can affect the company. And that their decisions can be seen across various departments through the use of the software.

This type of transparency allows employees to see each other’s successes, along with areas they can improve on. People can’t just sit behind their computers and say they are getting their work done. Instead, they can track their work along with others to make sure things move smoothly—not just for themselves, but for the whole company. And if needed, someone can step in to assist and help them learn. Having access to see other co-workers’ work also can result in friendly competition between co-workers and more collaboration, which can help increase productivity.

By using software that engages employees, you are allowing them to track their success, encouraging them to be productive and efficient at their job. This is something companies continuously strive for. And it’s helping an industry such as manufacturing that is frantically searching for a new generation of workers to replace the ongoing wave of retiring Baby Boomers. The lessons learned in this industry can be a model for other industries facing the loss of a workforce and the need to build a new workforce of generations that require this type of culture.

For a generation looking to learn and grow within the company, having transparency across workstations also can provide clearer training. Newer generations coming in can see how their colleagues’ work affects the company, and better understand what it takes to be successful. Overall, it creates a stronger community.

Unlocking the Power of Your People

No matter what industry you are in, having software tools that provide transparency in the workplace can lead to a winning culture, providing higher job satisfaction. It allows for everyone to see each other’s work in order to come together as a team to do what needs to be done, and to stop and course correct if they see errors in the system. This helps everyone, not just one specific department. These are the very things the next generation is looking for in their workplace.

We need to bring back the understanding that the human element is the strongest weapon we hold. People are natural problem solvers, and their ideas and knack for innovation, joined with appropriate software solutions, is a powerful combination that can move any enterprise forward.

Keith Barr is president  and CEO of Leading2Lean. The company’s digital process management platform, Lean Execution System, works with existing systems to digitize manual workflows, make data actionable, and provide closed-loop methodologies that result in sustainable continuous improvement. After leading a number of organizations through turnarounds in 20 years with the U.S Air Force, Barr has had a long career as a leader in the manufacturing technology sector. He believes manufacturing can only survive by evolving and adapting to new technologies and digital lean methodologies. However, he is also a contrarian who believes manufacturers too often ignore the human equation. For more content from L2L, visit or


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