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Tech Talk by Peter Mate
Peter Mate is owner and president of Planit Canada, a software and services company devoted to servicing the manufacturing industry. For more info email
Is technology enough to attract and retain young talent? Nope.
Younger workers are not all about technology. Yes, technology and the youth of today go hand in hand for the most part, but we are in no position to label an entire generation or multiple generations with one broad stroke. I heard a comment recently that alluded to the fact that since we now have more high-tech stuff in woodworking, we should be attracting younger workers.
The truth is every industry has technology. Every industry has labour shortages, is forced to automate, and rethink processes. We can’t be expecting a mob of young talent to come to our industry and stay here just because we have robots. The days of lengthy careers with one employer are few and far between.
In the past, having a job was a privilege. Today, each employee we have is a privilege. So, if we can’t attract and retain the new labour pool with technology, then how do we make sure we get our share to join 
our awesome industry?
To me the challenge is not a manual-work-versus-computer-work challenge. I believe employees have the choice of where to work more than ever. So now, employees want to work in places that don’t treat them like a number. Go figure. They have the luxury of working for employers that treat employees like human beings. They can choose to work for an employer that is doing something that is close to their heart. Something constructive and fulfilling.
The trend of going above and beyond to attract and retain employees really took shape in the tech industry. They faced labour shortages and had to compete for the best talent. Everyone laughed when we heard about the free lunches, beer taps in the break rooms, nap pods, extravagant company retreats or unlimited paid vacations. These companies understood that it was not the task or even only the salary that had an impact on the attractiveness of one employer over another, there was something more.
We spend so much time at work. We spend more time at work than we do with our kids, our spouses, or even at home sometimes. It’s no surprise that if people must choose, they’ll pick jobs that give them more time for the things that matter the most to them. Sitting in traffic used to be a price to pay to have a good job with a good salary. Today, you can live just about anywhere on the planet with high-speed Internet and still secure a very well paying job.
All of this wreaks havoc if we try and make it fit in our traditional model for employees. What if we thought of it differently? Instead of paying people by the hour, then policing them to make sure they worked those hours with the expectation that they could produce a set amount of value for the company in that time and of course expecting that they could do more year after year, what if there was a better way? What if shop floor employees had a vested interest in everything that drives the company’s profit?
What if we valued productivity rather than time? Isn’t that what we’re after in the end anyways? I know we can’t just turn a page and start over. I know it’s not easy, but what if we could start thinking that employees might actually have great ideas on how to make the company better and more profitable? Maybe all they need is a reason to care and some liberty to try some things out?
So no, technology alone is not the savior of our labor shortages. We can, however, attract top talent outside of our geographical areas because of technology. We can retain top employees, even if they can’t come to the office. There are teams of engineers collaborating on some of the most complex projects and problems 
that are spread across the world. I can’t imagine we are not able to produce a 
CNC file working from 
the next province over. 
We have to let go of the past work environment 
and open up our businesses to allow creativity to 
flow when it comes to creating a workplace that feels amazing.

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