Plant-Tours.com has over 20 years of experience partnering with manufacturers to make sure that their employees and visitors communicate better in loud and large spaces like manufacturing facilities. The coronavirus pandemic created a challenge never seen before in this industry, yet manufacturers showed resilience and flexibility in staying open and producing at high levels. During this time, the industry has prioritized safety and started preparing for the next normal. As facilities reopened and received visitors again, there were new guidelines and procedures to follow. With these changes, it is necessary to train employees on how to safely return to work, maximize communication and effectively use skills developed while working remotely to improve operations at the plant.
How to Train Employees During COVID?
During difficult times like a public health crisis, many companies are tempted to cut back on training employees. Some employees are out of the office doing remote work, new priorities are put in place to make sure operations continue and production is not hampered. However, training is key for instilling new ways of working and how to make these processes more safe and efficient. The COVID pandemic has expedited the amount of digital interactions and reduced the amount of face-to-face interactions that workers have with each other. This means that companies have to reinvent work and the way work is done to remain productive as part of a covid-19 response plan. Remote work in manufacturing has always been difficult due to the physical nature of the industry. When the pandemic hit, a majority of US workers moved to remote work but manufacturing operations either shut down or operated with minimal workers on the facility floor. However, new tools are being developed to help enable remote work for manufacturers in addition to reliable technologies that promote effective communication for workers that remain onsite. This trend benefits both employers and employees since remote work has been linked to cost savings and increased well-being of workers, therefore helps with employee retention. Rethinking one key challenge has resulted in remote monitoring of plant equipment. Using Bluetooth technology, employees can now remotely monitor production, machine and operator data and analyze it in real time. This helps with efficiency and maximizing production goals. It also helps identify machines that are not performing properly allowing maintenance to service the equipment before a breakdown occurs. With the additional investment in digital monitoring there also must be cybersecurity precautions taking place. Cyber attacks against manufacturers are on the rise which can potentially disrupt production and steal proprietary data. Finally, manufacturers must give onsite workers the tools and information they need to make decisions quickly as well as communicate to team members clearly. Real time alerts about production data and equipment health to inform and tour guide headsets systems to communicate clearly over large distances and background noise is necessary. Workers will need to be retrained to properly use software to understand efficiency and production metrics and how to communicate these findings to each other.
Impact of COVID on Training & Development?
In early 2020 many companies did not hire new employees. Therefore there was no need for human resources to plan onboarding programs during the new work from home environment. As the year progressed and it was evident that this new normal was here to stay, it became necessary to devise a new onboarding process that worked in a remote setting. The challenge for companies, from small business to enterprise, was in trying to figure out how to install company culture to new hires either in person utilizing physical distancing or at home through virtual training. The most successful companies did not bypass new hire training and combined virtual meetings, webinars (e.g. company social media policies), and training with shorter in-person orientation to maximize the effectiveness of in person and virtual. Of course, the manner in which an employee is trained depends on the nature of their work. For example many healthcare workers and manufacturing shop floor workers, who are hands-on with equipment, will need to be physically present while sales and marketing employees can do most of their work remotely. Two way communication systems should be used to facilitate communication between participants since there will be background noise and physical distancing to overcome. This should also be followed during an onboarding process.
Reskilling for existing employees has also been important for business’s covid-19 response plans. The pandemic has accelerated individual’s use of software and digitization. Being able to use teleconferencing and other communication tools while working remotely is necessary, and being able to introduce digitization tools to customers and have them effectively use those tools to connect with your products and services is of great importance. Training employees on how to use digital tools and strategy needs to be a top priority.
Health and Safety Education?
Health & safety training has long been a top priority for manufacturers. Preventing accidents is obviously an important directive for everyone. Now, with the spread of covid-19, it is more important and difficult to execute than ever before. New training programs should be focused on safe work practices such as how to work while social distancing and wearing personal protective equipment (PPE). Face coverings, gloves, hand washing should all be emphasized and reminders built into employees’ day to day routines. Make sure to add in the specific health & safety training for your specific facility and to check with the centers for disease control and prevention (CDC) for updated guidance. In addition, cleaning and disinfecting shared workspaces and other communal areas is very important for infection prevention. Train employees on what products should be used, where they are stored and how often the cleanings should take place. Also, give guidance on when employees should stay home when they are feeling unwell or have potential exposure to covid-19. When employees have to work remotely they can be given instructions on video conferencing software like Zoom and Microsoft Teams to stay current with meetings. This may also be a good time for employees to complete pre-recorded training videos and webinars as well as other independent work. With the increase in independent work expected to last after the pandemic is minimized it is important for managers to have check-ins with their direct reports. This is crucial not only for work related issues but also to gauge how they’re doing personally during a time of isolation from their work teams.
OSHA has a library of training materials on occupational safety guidelines that serves as a good resource for preparing the work environment for occupational safety during the pandemic.
The COVID pandemic’s impact on people’s physical and mental health has been difficult on many levels. Businesses have had to change many aspects of how work is done including training and development programs. By incorporating new digital communication tools for employees who work remotely and tour guide communication headsets for employees who must be physically present at work, workers can effectively train and stay safe at the same time.