A recent study by KU Leuven (Belgium), one of the leading European universities, revealed that factory workers feel too little involvement in the introduction of new technologies and digitisation at their workplace. As a result, elder workers in particular tend to be worried about how their job will change, leading to ’technostress’.
“This mainly concerns new technologies which come under the heading of ‘Industry 4.0’, the fourth industrial revolution. The previous revolution was about automation, now it’s mainly about connectivity. Machines are being connected with each other digitally and also with their operators through tablets or other interfaces. Industry 4.0 is about big data, the digital collection and linking of all kinds of data,” explains KU Leuven researcher Lise Meylemans. “The tasks of the employees change. New ’smart‘ machines, for example, are able to operate (semi-)autonomously, stimulating employees to actively engage in extra responsibilities such as maintenance of the machine and solving (software and technical) problems.”
The key to remedy Technostress for employers and employees therefore is to actively engage in employee involvement, combined with proper training & skill development.
Let’s look into this a bit further.
A 2017 study of >800 Belgian industrial employees revealed that
- less than 1 in 5 employees feel that their company is managing change well
- as many as 6 in 10 feel that too little is being done about change management
Poor internal communication and lack of employee consultation by the company’s management were mentioned as main reasons for these figures. (Individual) employee consultation is very important for employees because 2 out of 3 reported that they would like to be involved in decisions about change.
Innovations deployed by management without much explanation almost always are perceived as threatening. Therefore, the ADMA project stimulates Manufacturing SME’s to allow for and organise (individual) employee consultation regularly by supervisors and management about the company’s vision, strategy & projects.
T5 – Human Centred Organisation
Training & skill development
As shown below in the different ADMA maturity levels for technology adoption by employees, manufacturing SMEs should try to organise technical trainings for all individual employees at regular intervals. As a next step, getting the majority of employees trained to implement process improvements themselves would position your company at the Factory of the Future level.
T1 – Advanced Manufacturing Technologies
At the same time employees should be preparing to work with digital interfaces. Digital technology will become an integral part of operational processes, supporting both the process as well as the operator. As a consequence, these operators should develop the digital skills to find an manipulate the data or interfaces, to be able to handle the operational process. Too often, adding digital to a process is seen as evident, without taking into account the new competences needed.
The same 2017 study showed that barely 1 in 5 employees actively participate in training courses in order to arm themselves against the risk that their job would ever disappear due to automation or robotisation.
ADMA addresses this challenge by encouraging and helping SME’s to deploy training for both immediate implementation and on the long-term, in order to develop the long-term potential of (every) individual employees.