As industry fixes its focus on the technologies of global industrial automation like IIoT, Cloud, and Industrie 4.0, it’s important to remember that people will power the innovations and developments of the future just as much as software. It’s more important than ever for industrial automation professionals to start taking a look at some of the ways that the changing workforce may affect automation, and how employers can align their values with emerging trends to find the best employees for the next generation of automation.
Technology Changes – Look for Employees who Won’t Stagnate
Adoption rates that once took decades can now happen in the space of years. Ten years ago, were you thinking about IoT? Were you using smartphones and tablets to connect to machines and control systems? Were you accessing your SCADA applications from a fully compatible web browser? Probably not, and it’s important to look for people who will be able to adapt to increasingly rapid changes too. Find employees with a zeal for experimentation and a willingness to adapt to new equipment, new tools, and even new fields when necessary.
Many of the employees at InduSoft have said on our podcasts that a willingness to learn new disciplines is what has helped them prepare for their career in automation, and it would have been impossible to make the advancements we’ve made without flexible people behind the software.
Comfortable with Both IT and Control Systems
IT and today’s control systems can no longer operate as separate entities. With cybersecurity attacks focusing on more industrial control systems it is critical that all networks within an organization are protected. Systems should be designed with a focus on safety and security at every level, from the plant floor to company and employee-owned devices.
More employees are entering the workforce who are comfortable with both IT and engineering, or at least willing to work in coordination with IT professionals. This is particularly true in emerging fields like IoT systems, and systems that require extensive remote maintenance and operation.
Hybrid Employees are in High Demand
Hybrid employees are employees with generalist knowledge of all levels of an organization, and the skills of a specialist in one or two aspects. A typical hybrid employee might have expert level maintenance skills, but could be comfortable operating a machine or conducting technical sales. A hybrid employee offers basically two employees in one, and can switch between positions that require a high level of skill with several others that require little to no training.
The boomerang employee is an employee that leaves for a period of months or years and returns later. While these employees were once stigmatized, it’s becoming more attractive to accept and enjoy the benefits a boomerang employee can bring. These employees generally need less training, have usually acquired many new skills in their time away, and are already familiar with your processes and procedures. Today’s workforce moves between jobs at an average of every 4 years, and it’s quickly becoming antiquated to expect any employee to remain with one company from hire to retirement.