How to get employees to embrace Industry 4.0

Industry 4.0 engineer with trainee


Industry 4.0 will bring about plenty of challenges and opportunities, not just for businesses but for individuals too. Although some employees may be ready to make the changes needed, it’s unlikely that everyone will welcome them.

With increased automation and smart factory implementation, workers are increasingly being taken off the shop floor and into jobs with digital skills. For some, this new world will fill them with anxiety about what these advances mean for their job.

Getting your employees on-board with your Industry 4.0 strategy is essential for an effective digital transformation. So how can you reassure your workforce and get them excited about what the new digital industry can bring?

Examine your business culture

To reach the goal of ‘productivity 4.0’, you’ve got to invest in the right machinery and business infrastructure. This includes having the right business culture in place to encourage the continuous improvement your plan needs to be successful.

Getting your workforce to buy in to Industry 4.0, its challenges and opportunities may not seem like a priority. However, if your business culture is one of deferring responsibility rather than taking accountability, making progress will become more difficult.

Develop rewards for positive behaviors and think of ways to recognize and encourage the innovative thinking you need. By setting up these structures, you’ll start to see a gradual shift towards a more accepting business culture.

Clearly communicate benefits and challenges

The path towards Industry 4.0 isn’t an easy one, and you shouldn’t hide this from your team. There are plenty of benefits to upgrading manufacturing processes, but there will be lots of challenges to overcome too. Plus, greater automation and the use of big data may mean that there are less people in traditional shop floor roles.

Reassure your team by being realistic about the changes. Explain that new machinery and greater access to data will make their jobs easier in the long run. Industry 4.0 doesn’t put their jobs at risk, but gives opportunities for them and the business to grow.

Be clear about how Industry 4.0 affects operations management and what this will mean for their roles. Be transparent about your strategy and the pathway you’ve set out to reach your business objectives. Showing employees that Industry 4.0 will help the business to stay competitive will make them more accepting of the changes.

Industry 4.0 Smart automation staff

Create Digital Champions

Another benefit your business will be sure to see when moving into Industry 4.0 is a skills revolution. As data becomes more of a focus, job roles will switch to become more digitally focused.

As well as investing in training and upskilling, nominate Digital Champions in your business. These are usually employees who have good digital skills or have been through additional training. Now, as a Digital Champion, they can be on-hand to help others who need extra advice and training.

By giving knowledgeable employees this responsibility, you’re not just training your workforce more effectively, but encouraging innovative thinking. Promoting autonomy in your team gives people the confidence to share ideas and make decisions themselves. This positive behaviour will only benefit your business going forward.

Share positive examples

Changes to job roles and responsibilities can be unnerving for some employees. By sharing positive examples of how a team met their objectives, you can teach employees the right behaviours clearly and simply.

For example, an employee receives information that a machine needs maintenance. To schedule in downtime for the machine, they start an automated planning workflow. This means that there’s minimal disruption to the production line.

By recognising and widely sharing this example, you can show employees how you want them to work. This encourages positive behaviours and helps to create a happy, innovative team.

Two engineers using CAD

Industry 4.0: managing the digital transformation

To make real progress with your Industry 4.0 strategy, you need buy-in from everyone in your organisation. This doesn’t just mean engaging your wider workforce, but your directors and C-suite too. They’re the ones who can really drive positive change and engage the wider business in the strategy.

As well as getting their investment, use senior leaders as positive examples of the change you’re trying to make. Get them to take the same digital courses as shop floor colleagues and consider holding workshops with Digital Champions. Or encourage them to present the improvements that have been made to the wider business.

Showing the team that this is a top-down initiative will encourage them to embrace these changes. By getting everyone invested in your Industry 4.0 strategy, your business will make real progress in its digital transformation.