Making L&D more accessible in manufacturing
The manufacturing industry is evolving – fast. But while firms are quick to embrace trends such as automation, the Internet of Things (IoT) and ‘glocalization’ , our research reveals a lag when it comes to L&D.
Learning does more than up-skill employees to cope with industry change. It helps create an inclusive culture and shows that you value equal opportunities and employee development. This in turn helps attract and retain the best talent. 
Let’s explore the L&D gaps and ways manufacturing can catch up with other industries.
L&D Trends for 2021
Our 2021 Learning Health Check research reveals that manufacturing is behind other industries in key L&D trends such as:
increasing learning access and flexibility
facilitating new ways of working
supporting continuous development.
Without access to the learning resources they need, it’s maybe no surprise that workers are also missing out on the wellbeing, teamwork and communication support that top-performing organizations offer right now.
If this pattern looks familiar, you may have to give further thought to the accessibility of your L&D resources. Do that and you can help maintain employee health and wellbeing post-COVID – and account for every individual’s learning needs. Here are some tips on how to do it.
Ask what employees want to learnOur research reveals that top-performing organizations were ahead of the trend for offering employees online learning options. They regularly ask employees what they want to learn – and how. And they listen out for barriers to learning. In 2020, 71% of high-impact learning cultures actively involved learners at the design stage – compared to 21% on average.
Offer L&D for all employeesWhen you encourage all employees to learn – office- and floor-based workers, managers and direct reports – you’ll create a culture of mutual respect where everyone feels supported to improve their skills. And with on-demand learning such as the Mind Tools for Business toolkit, all employees can learn on any device – regardless of location and digital capabilities.
Give anytime access to learning
Since COVID struck, most industries have seen a surge in demand for self-service technologies. Now, many employees can learn at a time and place that suits them – something today’s ‘consumer learners’ asked for before the pandemic.
With Mind Tools for Business, employees can learn in the flow of work or set time aside for longer-term development. What’s more, on-demand videos, articles, animations, how-to guides, and interactive self-assessments are all bite-sized. So, learners can fit learning into the day-to-day – and top up on knowledge when they need to.
Make online learning easy
Today’s consumer learners feel more empowered to learn. So much so, 87% of learners say they manage their own L&D responsibly.  But they’re used to the seamless experience of consumer apps. If your digital learning platform isn’t easy to use, they may look elsewhere.
Technology such as Single Sign-On can help. This lets learners log in once to your system to easily and securely access resources. Without the faff or creating new passwords and hounding your IT team for resets.
It also helps if learning resources are clear, concise, and formatted so they’re easy to read, interact with, listen to or watch. Like Mind Tools for Business content which is accessible to all, with video transcripts, captions and fonts that meet WCAG standards.
Offer a blend of learning options
While the pandemic has formed much L&D online, some manufacturing learning can’t be delivered in this way, by the very nature of the roles that make up the industry. But you can take the opportunity to refine a blend of learning options. A mix such as face-to-face courses, digital resources and mentoring gives your employees a greater choice. And our research reveals that blended learning is better at putting learning into practice than classroom or online learning only. 
Mind Tools for Business can offer the digital side, and help develop skills such as coaching, mentoring, and presenting to help with face-to-face learning. And content is easily shareable, too, on the toolkit and via platforms such as Microsoft Teams. So, learners can share helpful and relevant resources with their peers – helping meet in-demand teamwork and communication skills.
Make your learning accessible today
When manufacturers adopt agile, inclusive and easily accessible L&D materials, they see upticks in productivity and engagement – and significant reductions in distraction time.
Since before the pandemic – but especially since it began – Emerald Works has been empowering manufacturing and engineering organizations with diverse, dynamic learning and development resources. And you can join them.
 Sharon Goldman, ‘Six Manufacturing Tech Trends To Look For In 2021’ (2021). Available here.
 Frederik Hogemark, ‘How to design and deliver an inclusive workplace learning strategy’ (2018). Available here.
 ‘Learning at Work Week: Reflecting on your L&D inclusivity’ (2021). Available here.
 Emerald Works, ‘Leader Perceptions of L&D’ (2021). Available to download here.