Aug. 12, 2020 | InBrief

Returning to work amid COVID-19 – Keeping manufacturing employees healthy and safe

As manufacturers reopen and cautiously return to work, here’s what they’ve learned in the early stages of deploying and enforcing certain strategies

As manufacturers reopen and cautiously return to work, there is a hyper focus on ensuring employee safety while maintaining service, speed, and productivity. Many companies are leveraging technology solutions such as wearables that track and trace and temperature scanners to identify COVID-19 symptoms, and also enforcing social distancing to support employee safety.

For organizations still working on their strategy to support their employees throughout the pandemic, the question looms: What lessons have been learned on the rapid selection and deployment of these technologies? 

Through West Monroe’s experience with manufacturing clients, five key learnings have emerged for organizations to consider to ensure success on their respective Back to Work and Employee Safety plans.

Listen to employees – early and often  

Adoption and compliance with a solution will be heavily influenced by employee buy-in. While some organization’s COVID response teams may believe a certain solution is necessary to implement, employees may believe otherwise. For example, organizations have assumed contact tracing is required, but employees have voiced this is too intrusive and have opted for wearable solutions that provide proximity tracing alerts to enforce social distancing.

Collaborate with internal partners 

Coordinating Return to Work efforts looks different for every organization. It is important, however, to collaborate with internal partners—that may or may not already be a part of an organization’s primary COVID response team—to ensure success. Key stakeholders include, but are not limited to, legal, health and safety, and human resources. Together, these stakeholders can all ensure that company guidelines for data and employee privacy and safety are met.

Think beyond the obvious 

While the most important focus of the solution is to protect employees, organizations must not lose sight of other factors that will affect the success of the solution. Vendor functionality is key, but so is their ability to implement and support their solution, not to mention having guaranteed supply to roll it out under a tight timeline. Employee count is not the only dimension to consider—organizations should also focus on the location, building size, contractors, guest engagement, and daily foot traffic.

Walk through the workflow upfront, and establish clear ownership 

Based on the goals for returning to work safely, organizations should consider exactly what data needs to be captured, and how it will be tracked, both in the short and long term. A specific workflow and a command center should be designated to address concerns regarding the solution, from technical issues to misplaced wearable devices, etc. Organizations should also continuously update their Return to Work playbook and training materials, with clear communication on changes to their employees.

Start with what you know and can control, then take the next step 

Organizations should begin with a small pilot group to test the training, implementation, and monitoring of the solution. Then, build a large-scale rollout plan based on employee feedback. The solution doesn’t need to be perfect upfront and will benefit from rapid test and learn cycles before rolling out to all employees and locations. Monitoring adoption and compliance is key in determining the success of the pilots and mass rollouts.  

Regardless of where an organization is at in its Return to Work and Employee Safety plan, it’s never too late to consider these lessons learned and apply them to operating strategies for the remainder of 2020 and beyond.

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