Want to Boost Your Manufacturing Profits? Try Employee Engagement
Manufacturers everywhere have a common charter to boost profits and increase market share. Some tried-and-true strategies to keep up with the competition include process automation, data-driven marketing, and smart inventory management.
And then there’s employee engagement. It's more than a feel-good buzzword - the benefits are quantifiable. How do you engage manufacturing employees?
Your workforce needs to have ownership over their work and feel empowered by a sense of purpose. Engagement can improve safety, reduce employee absences and turnover, and spur company-wide increases in productivity - as much as 21 percent, according to Gallup. These benefits, in turn, help to boost customer satisfaction and promote company profitability.
In an increasingly competitive manufacturing marketplace, employee engagement can make all the difference.
Not sure where to start? There are no hard-and-fast rules for boosting employee engagement, but you can consider the following three broad strategies as a foundation.
Make employees feel valued
Studies show that we have a human need to feel that we make tangible, valuable contributions to our world. This need is as present in our workplaces as it is in our personal lives. It is a leader’s or manager’s job to ensure that each employee understands their role in the organization, and how their work drives the company’s goals and initiatives. Pull back the curtain a little! If you can, point out how a slight improvement in the quality of their particular step in a process can snowball into a large increase in the overall health of the company. When employees see the impact of their work on the company as a whole, they will likely be more committed to their job.
Encourage and foster growth
Positive reinforcement is much better for this than punishment. All employees should be regularly reviewed, but in addition to identifying areas that are opportunities for employee development going forward, they should receive positive feedback specific to them and their role. Help with goal-setting and implementing strategies for improvement. Your company’s honest and consistent feedback shows employees that you want to see them grow and succeed.
Recognize and reward employees whose job performance goes above and beyond, and make this praise visible to their peers. Offer educational opportunities outside of regular job training. For example, personal financial management lessons are often available free-of-charge through your 401(k) provider. Also, you can often turn to an employee assistance program to tap life skills resources for your workforce. Doing this shows commitment to your employees that goes beyond a typical work day to encompass the long-term. Send employees with management potential to training to develop leadership skills. The investments on your end will frequently be offset by the benefits of a better-trained and more engaged workforce.
Listen to employees
Make sure key managers, HR representatives, and executives are taking the time to engage around what employees see, think, and need. Employees are your eyes and ears on the front lines. What does it take to operate your plant? Being “in the trenches,” they may see opportunities not clear to management, and they often know which technology and processes are getting in the way of doing better work. There is more to a rich work-life than salary and benefits, and key insight is there for the taking. What motivational perks would lead to the greatest success stories from your people and the work they do? What does your plant mean to the local community? You may not be able to grant all their requests, whether it's the departmental budget to blame for a hold-off on new chairs, or that you simply don't believe there’s a return on investment from holding future team meetings in Hawaii. However, listening to employees and acting on that information as appropriate shows that you value them and their input.
When you give employees a voice, and your ear, it can go a long way toward inspiring your workforce to engage in growing your business.