HR is crucial to efficiency drive

Written by: Eureka! | Published:

Leading manufacturers understand the importance of lean production – yet many have not fully realised the potential of HR teams to deliver better ROI.

According to Adam Barrett, manufacturing HR technology specialist at the Access Group, industries such as engineering, pharmaceuticals and food and drink are counting the cost of low workforce engagement, high staff turnover and uninformed decision-making.

Writing in a free two-part guide, he reveals that a third of HR practitioners currently lose more than two working days every week due to poor collaboration between different teams and reveals how the 1% marginal gains theory used by top sporting coaches can be used to tackle some of the core issues in manufacturing HR departments.

The same theory was famously used by British Cycling in 2002 after years of limited success. Six years later, the team had seven Olympic gold medals under its belt, matching that haul at the 2012 Olympics and going on to win seven Tour De France titles.

Commenting on the findings, Barrett says: “Improving by 1% isn’t particularly noticeable on its own but over time, it can lead to results that are far more impressive and sustainable. Think slow burn, not big bang.”

One of the biggest challenges facing manufacturing is labour shortages but even those who manage to recruit must work hard to retain staff. Engaging a workforce made up of permanent and seasonal staff, some of whom will be on low wages and working shifts, can be tricky.

Barrett adds: “The uncertainty around Brexit has added a new dimension to the problem, with some firms concerned that they won’t be able to fill roles without a supply of EU labour, whether because of immigration restrictions or because people choose not to come to the UK.

“Despite this, there are many manufacturing firms currently flying the flag for HR excellence, with the likes of Paxton launching its own learning portal for both work and non-work-related development and ready meal manufacturer COOK and its peer-to-peer nominee rewards scheme. Achieving best practice like this is an ongoing process, which involves developing clear and consistent processes, data-led decision-making and collaboration across departments.”

Contrary to widespread perceptions, according to Barrett, UK manufacturing is thriving, with the UK currently the eighth largest industrial nation. If current trends continue the UK will break into the top five by 2021. As the industry continues to grow, HR will have an increasingly important role to play.

“While some senior managers evidently already understand that empowering HR to make better use of people, data is key to addressing these issues, they do not necessarily know where to start,” says Barrett.

“Wholesale change is always daunting – not least because it tends to require significant investment and buy-in – so these books highlight the benefit of small but continuous improvements. Something as simple as reviewing the way that skills checks are conducted or implementing a company-wide employee engagement survey can have a substantial impact.”

The first book, ‘Small HR Innovations that Make a Big Difference: The 1% Rule’, is a look at the latest industry thinking, while the second, ‘Driving Change in HR: Applying Marginal Gains in 2019’, provides practical advice on how HR can deliver on wider business objectives. Both are available on the Access group’s website.

Small HR Innovations Guide is:

Small HR Innovations Manufacturing Guide is:

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