Investing in the Employee of the Future

A few months ago, I wrote about the glass industry labor shortage and some of the ways we can be tackling that challenge head-on today. The topic is on my mind again this month because we’re in the thick of our busy season, and as projects heat up, things can get even more challenging.

Making the investment in the right employees to drive your business forward isn’t just a challenge for the present, though. It’s something we’re doing for our continued benefit in the future. We need to always be thinking about the evolving skillsets needed as the industry changes.

What do we need to be thinking about in people who will be good employees today, as well as 10 years from now? Here are some things I’ve been considering recently:

Specialists vs. Generalists

A few of my recent posts here have focused on the architectural community and the ways the glass industry can continue to foster a strong relationship with those folks. One of the reasons that’s important is because commercial building design continues to grow more complex, unique and demanding for both glaziers and fabricators.

This has as much to do with product quality as it does with the people putting those products to use. Today’s designs make use of custom glass shapes and sizes, specialty coatings, oversized glass, electrochromic glass, and more. The range of new glass technology has sparked a bit of conversation among the glazing community—should training be specialized to certain niches, or should contract glaziers be able to do a bit of everything?

The answer to that question might not be immediately clear, but one thing is: Whether it’s a “standard” job or a complex specialty project, correct installation remains paramount. We need to be making sure that tradesmen are armed with the skills to do the job correctly, and that available training programs are keeping up with industry demands.

An Evolved Plant Needs an Evolved Employee

The need for an evolving, adaptive skillset is true of both glaziers and fabricators. Because we’re not just manufacturing new, specialty products—we’re doing so with new and evolving equipment and processes.

Glass fabrication has changed over the past few years—as is no secret—and high-speed automated lines grow in number across the North American market. And for those on the floor, the job isn’t exactly what it used to be.

As we continue to leverage new technology in our plants, a well-rounded, tech-savvy employee base will only become more important. Staff needs to be knowledgeable about digital systems in place; about the required maintenance for new equipment; about the tracking of product quality throughout the supply chain, from raw materials sourcing to shipping; about new capabilities a plant might be adding to match demand. We must account for these things when investing in the employee of the future, both in our hiring processes and in how we’re training people to do the job.  Add to this the challenge of a multigenerational workforce and it gets quite interesting.

New and changing technology allows for a more empowered workforce in many instances, across all parts of the glass industry. But it only happens if that workforce is equipped with the right knowledge and the right attitude. Staying ahead in a changing industry depends on it.