This study examines how Industry 4.0’s new technologies and radical, frequent change will accelerate the need to reform technical education to address new requirements. All participants were assessed for skill competency, behavior style, and motivators and stratified into three groups: Emerging Leaders, Engineers, and and Skilled Trade.
Mindful that most of the participants were students preparing to enter the workforce, data shows that new employees will need development and coaching by their employer to excel in this environment. Onboarding and employee development plans need to address raising urgency and accountability skills. Building urgency requires a compelling vision for the organization teaching employees to develop a stretch goal. Emerging leaders need to be coached to relax inclinations to command and control activity while developing their conceptual thinking and delegation skills to unleash the creativity of their engineers. Given the size of the Skilled Trade workforce, identifying and addressing lower competency at problem solving (i.e. structuring problem statements identifying desired results) should be a priority.
With so many employers concerned about attracting and retaining skilled talent, I am summarizing a paper I came across that studied the potential gaps in educational preparation for technical careers. The paper is called “The Industry 4.0 Talent Pipeline: A Generational Overview of the Professional Competencies, Motivational Factors & Behavioral Styles of the Workforce” by David Pistrui, Darrell Kleinke, Shuvra Das, and Ron Bonnstetter and was presented to the American Society for Engineering Education in 2020.
The paper built on a previous work that identified five trends necessitating the reskilling of engineers for Industry 4.0; which are;
- The Workforce Must Embrace Frequent and Constant Change.
- Teams Must be Flexible, Adaptive and Collaborative.
- Companies Must Create Cultures of Inclusion and Transparency
- Workers Must Become Life-long Learners & Dynamic Thinkers
- The Need for Accelerated Education and Workforce Development Reform
The Test Groups: Three groups were tested. The Leader group is comprised of 66 engineering professionals employed with OEMs or 1st tier suppliers and designated by their employer as an emerging leader. Most of the group had an MS degree and are in Gen X or Millennial generation. The second group is comprised of 182 undergraduate students enrolled in a four-year mechanical or electrical engineering program and most are Generation Z. And the Skilled Trade group is comprised of 225 students in a two-year program developing such Industry 4.0-relevant skills as robotics, cybersecurity, and welding.
Test Instrument: Assessment of the participants was made by an instrument from TTI Success Insights that included a skill competency, behavior style, and motivational driver assessment.
This assessment measures development of 25 skills and ranks them from most developed to least developed. Skills are developed through practice. From an onboarding perspective, skills can be developed through effective coaching in a relatively short period of time. Observe that two of the groups are students that have yet to join the Industry 4.0 workforce.
All three groups had interpersonal skills and appreciation of others in their top developed skills. Contrary for expectations for Industry 4.0, Leaders showed lower development of conceptual thinking (identifying patterns to make connections for innovations) and creativity skills. Given the Engineers’ high level of conceptual thinking skill, the potential for future conflict between these groups is possible. Likewise, the Skilled Trade’s low problem-solving skills is contrary to Industry 4.0 expectations. Addressing these skill gaps is an opportunity for technology companies.
TTI Success Insights is a company that has been doing assessment for close to 40 years and has an average score for each of these skills based on tens of thousands of national participants. Our test groups scored below the national average in the skills of understanding the uniqueness of others and their contribution, conceptual thinking, and personal accountability. These are also additional development opportunities for tech employers.
Behavior style is how, with no external influences, we prefer to behave. This style manifests habitual behavior formed early in childhood development and cannot be changed. Most people, however, do learn to adapt their behavior to some extent and better fit into their work environment. Since these adaptations do create stress for an employee, it is best if the adaptations are small. When an employee’s style is not compatible with a job or work environment, it will not be a satisfactory experience for employee or employer. Thus, it is best to factor behavior style into hiring and promotion decisions. Self-awareness and motivation are key elements for an employee to adapt their behavior.
The results conform largely to engineer-manager stereotypes. Professionals identified as future leaders are more extroverted and more concerned about how others perceive their work. While Engineers and Skilled Trades are more introverted and work at a greater level of detail without getting bored or frustrated and appreciate policies and workflows that are understood and not subject to change.
The low urgency score that all three groups share is of note. Although there is complexity in building urgency, communicating what is driving urgency and mentoring are strategies for improvement. Consider also the groups’ resistance to frequent change and the challenge to management, as the Industry 4.0 environment is evolving and subject to frequent change. Plus, managers should note the non-competitive nature of Skilled Trade suggests and how competitive incentives may fall short.
Motivators are our intrinsic values and govern how we choose work that is interesting and that which is not. Organizations that excel, recognize workers do what they want to do and structure work to use positive motivators and avoid negative motivators. As mentioned in the previous section, framing desired behavior changes to fit with an employee’s motivators improves chances of success. This test ranks 12 motivators; and the three or four top and bottom motivators are most actionable while those in the middle tend to be more situational.
All three groups are motivated to acquire new knowledge that will benefit their career and family. Especially with younger generations, continued learning is important to job satisfaction. As expected, leaders like to command while engineers and skilled trades enjoy new ideas and approaches to problems. It is imperative that approaches are considered that keep these two drives out of conflict. A related surprise was Leaders’ indifference to personally collaborating and Skilled Trades indifference to maximizing efficiency. All three groups’ tendency to avoid following tried methods and structure may become a drag on efficiency. When I was an engineer, this was labeled as “not invented here” syndrome and led to needless redesign.