9 ways to boost employee engagement in manufacturing organizations
The manufacturing industry has an engagement problem. Just 25% of manufacturing employees are engaged at work, making it one of the least engaged occupations in the US.
Employee engagement is the extent to which workers feel satisfied with their jobs and are aligned with organizational values. It also influences how able and willing they are to give 100% to their work.
So the stat above is worrying. But it also presents an untapped opportunity for forward-thinking firms.
When you improve employee engagement, you create a stronger connection between employee and organization. This leads to better retention, productivity, and business results.
With Deloitte’s 2024 Manufacturing Industry Outlook listing skilled staff shortages as one of the industry’s primary challenges over the coming year, there’s never been a better time to put an employee engagement strategy into action.
Take a look at our ideas for manufacturing employee engagement to swim against the tide, attract additional employees and motivate the ones you already have.
The importance of employee engagement in manufacturing
It is without question that employee engagement is important to every organization in every industry.
Engagement has a direct impact on talent acquisition and retention. Staff are less likely to take time off sick and productivity sees a 14% uptick. Happier, more satisfied staff produce better, more cost-effective results for your company.
But in manufacturing, employee engagement can help you to overcome a range of industry-specific challenges. There’s a link between manufacturing employee engagement and all of the following:
- Quality management – engaged employees care more about company goals – they’re more likely to spot and report quality issues
- Safety and risk management – engaged employees pay more attention to the critical comms sent out, which can often include safety and risk management documents. Engaged employees also hold themselves accountable for their impact on the team and work environment, which will lead them to paying more attention to health and safety.
- Customer experience – there’s a link between employee experience (EX) and customer experience CX) – engaged employees manufacture better products and provide a better service
- Business results – when quality, safety, and CX improve, you improve overall business results – costs go down, sales go up
Key factors influencing employee engagement in manufacturing
If you want to improve the manufacturing employee experience at your organization, you need a strategy. This plan sets out how every part of your company – not just your HR team – is going to work together to improve engagement.
Your strategy should also consider the key factors that affect employee engagement in the manufacturing workplace.
Internal communication within a manufacturing organization can be tricky.
To start, the majority of manufacturing frontline employees don’t have business emails. This creates an initial barrier to cross —of how to even communicate with these workers.
Then you have teams in the office and on the factory floor, plus a variety of login, language, and time constraints. To give updates on safety protocols and equipment issues, and to share company culture, you need communication channels that deliver the right information to every employee.
The physical work environment
Your workplace should be a safe and comfortable environment for employees. Equipment and protocols have to support the physical wellbeing of workers. And staff need easy-access communication channels so they can report hazards and safety concerns.
Training and development
Training and development are key in a fast-changing sector like manufacturing. So employees can deliver products to the expected standard. And so you can retain more of your workers by giving them new challenges and a clear career path.
A sense of meaning
Manufacturing employees are often responsible for repetitive tasks. And it can be hard for them to see how their work fits into the bigger picture. Workplace leaders bring meaning to employee work by recognizing their efforts and sharing company goals and values.
9 ways to improve employee engagement in manufacturing
Looking to improve employee engagement at your manufacturing firm? The following ideas will help you enhance the employee experience and reap business rewards.
1. Invest in technology
AI, automation, robotics – manufacturing tech is coming on leaps and bounds. But technology doesn’t just improve manufacturing processes. You can use it to boost employee engagement, too.
An employee app like Blink supports easy communication across your organization. As a mobile-first solution, available via smartphone, you can put mandatory reads, new safety protocols, and essential company updates at the fingertips of every employee.
You also bring together the tech tools your teams already use. With next-level integration capabilities, Blink puts information and resources in one easy-access location. You provide a friction-free, user-friendly interface that your employees enjoy using.
Technology streamlines work – and keeps employees in the loop. Just be sure to choose tools suited to both frontline and desk-based workers, and accessible for those with a company email or without. In doing so, you create an equitable working environment and raise the engagement bar for everyone.
2. Open communication
In workplaces that prioritize honesty, personal openness, and mutual respect, workers are 80% more likely to report high emotional wellbeing. Open communication helps keep employees happy.
You can put the rumor mill out of action and adopt a more open communication style by letting information move freely between all members of your organization:
- Leaders keep employees in the loop, sharing key updates and supporting workers to understand the bigger picture.
- Managers have an open-door policy and regularly connect with their employees, offering feedback, updates, and – crucially – listening to what they have to say, too.
- Workers are encouraged to contribute – they collaborate with each other and feel comfortable raising issues and ideas with decision-makers
So how do you make this kind of communication a reality within your manufacturing organization?
Firstly, you need the right communication channels. These should be suited to your way of working and link every member of the workforce. In a large, modern workplace, a noticeboard crammed with paper memos simply won’t cut it.
Secondly, leaders need to leave egos at the door. Open communication means sometimes hearing things you don’t want to hear. Remember that negative feedback is often more valuable than good as it highlights areas for improvement. And encourage managers to lead by example.
Lastly, bear in mind that open communication can be taught. So train employees in information sharing, active listening, empathy, and teamwork. Teach them which communication channels are the most appropriate – and how often they should be using them.
3. Translation capabilities
Most manufacturing organizations have a diverse, multinational workforce. And many frontline employees don’t speak English as a first language. So if you’re not already translating company comms, this is a really easy way to boost employee engagement across the board.
Resources, information, and internal communication should be available in the languages your workforce speaks. That way everyone receives the same message and enjoys equal access to information. This also eliminates the bottleneck that managers create, having to be the translator themselves and spending their hours on managing the communication channels that their employees don’t have access to.
For example,The Blink app supports over 100 languages. Contributors can translate posts and resources at the click of a button, making all of your content accessible to everyone on your team, regardless of the language they prefer to use.
With effective, accurate translation, you get everyone on the same page – and include everyone in your company culture.
4. Recognition programs
Recognition makes employees feel valued. When you appreciate and reward employees who go above and beyond, you motivate them and inspire other employees to follow suit.
So when an employee hits a professional or personal milestone, when someone highlights a safety issue before it becomes a hazard, or when a team consistently meets their targets, give them the public recognition they deserve. And encourage co-workers to praise one another, too.
You can give recognition in company meetings, on the blog, or in the newsletter. Or ensure you reach every member of staff with recognition updates by using a digital solution like Blink.
With Blink’s recognition feature, you can post instant, personalized messages to highlight staff achievements. You add a recognition post to the company news feed and start building recognition into your company culture in just a few clicks.
Praise goes a long way. But you may also like to consider perks and prizes. Gift vouchers, an extra paid day’s leave, or a catered team lunch can all incentivize your teams. For manufacturing firm, JFE Shoji Power, sweepstake competition prizes helped them to fill overtime shifts.
But before you put a reward program into place, survey your staff. Find out what they really want in terms of recognition and reward. That way your recognition program stands to make the most impact.
5. Opportunities for advancement
It’s not just your office-based team who are keen to advance in their careers. 70% of frontline employees have applied for advancement opportunities. But this group doesn’t always get the resources or support they need to move up the career ladder.
When you’re looking to improve employee engagement in a manufacturing organization, allowing all employees to learn and advance within their roles is crucial. It gives employees something to work towards and feel excited about. And it makes them much more invested in doing a good job.
There are lots of things you can do to support career growth.
- Map out clear career goals with employees, offering training and mentor support to help them achieve them
- Give workers more responsibility during the standard work day, encouraging them to take ownership and make decisions where appropriate
- Cross-train and rotate jobs to bring variety to an employee’s workplace experience
- Ensure everyone is aware of training and career opportunities within your organization, highlighting typical career pathways and the perks of promotion
6. Regular, two-way feedback
As we mentioned earlier, open communication is an important part of employee engagement. You can facilitate this type of interaction by providing regular opportunities for two-way feedback.
Regular 1-to-1s between employees and managers help to maintain open lines of communication. These meetings are an opportunity to align goals, resolve conflicts, and identify areas for development.
Crucially, employees get the chance to raise queries and issues, too. They can provide insight into the manufacturing employee experience and any challenges they’re currently facing.
Just remember, this type of interaction needs to take place regularly, not just once or twice a year. To build trusting, open relationships, you need to build this type of communication into every single week.
That means managers spending time on the factory floor, seeing for themselves what excites, challenges, and frustrates workers. It means creating impromptu feedback opportunities. And it means using digital solutions to make feedback and communication easy, even when managers and workers aren’t based in the same location.
7. Create a safe environment
The manufacturing industry in the US has some of the highest rates of occupational injury and illness. But you don’t get high rates of manufacturing employee engagement unless staff feel safe at work.
When employees feel safe:
- They can focus on their work
- They feel a greater sense of morale
- They feel valued and supported
- They trust in workplace leadership
Prioritize workplace safety and you also create a virtuous circle. Safe environments lead to better employee engagement. And engaged employees help to improve workplace safety going forward. There are 70% fewer safety incidents in the most engaged workplace environments than there are in the least.
Leaders and managers should regularly reassess the safety performance of equipment and protective wear. Careful plant design can help to mitigate safety risks, while clear risk assessment and safety protocols help workers identify and rectify issues before they lead to a safety incident.
But workplace safety isn’t just about having the right equipment and protocols. It’s about fostering a company culture with safety at its core.
To do this, you need psychological safety in addition to physical safety. This is where people feel safe voicing their opinions because they’re not worried about being judged, blamed, or punished.
Give employees a sense of psychological safety – and the right communication tools – and they’ll be more likely to report safety issues. Digital tools, rather than pen and paper methods, help safety information to travel both ways, reaching decision-makers and factory floor workers quickly.
8. Invest in training and onboarding
Manufacturing processes are prone to change. Employees need to keep their knowledge of tech and equipment, as well as their skills, up-to-date. This helps to create a safe environment for everyone working on the manufacturing team. And it boosts employee engagement, too.
Research from 2023 reveals that:
- 71% of manufacturing employees say that training and development is important to them in their work life
- 35% say they aren’t getting the quality of training and development they expect
- 28% said they would leave their employer soon because of poor training and skills development
Onboarding is not to be overlooked either. When new hires start working for a company, there’s lots to learn. Safety protocols. How to use equipment. Company values. Who they can turn to for feedback and support.
Some organizations, lacking manpower, don’t put enough time and effort into onboarding. But this is where you lay the foundations of employee experience. And it can make or break an employee’s engagement with your firm.
You can maximize onboarding benefits without spreading their staff too thin, with the help of a digital onboarding process.
Employees access guides, rules, and resources via the company portal. They can refer back to resources as and when they need them. It’s also easy for your teams to update resources with the most up-to-date information.
Managers and co-workers can then supplement this online learning with face-to-face input ensuring a positive experience for new employees.
9. Implement employee surveys
You can never really be sure how your staff are feeling unless you ask. So before you implement an employee engagement strategy for your manufacturing organization, it makes sense to conduct surveys.
As well as listening to employee concerns during manager 1-to-1s, surveys allow employees to give feedback on specific aspects of their role and on what they feel could be better within the organization.
Follow up with a regular schedule of surveys and you build a complete picture of the employee experience:
- Annual surveys give you insight into employee engagement progress
- Quick and easy pulse surveys give you an up-to-the-minute snapshot of employee sentiment
- Lifecycle surveys help you understand the challenges facing employees at each stage in their journey
To get feedback from as many employees as possible, you need to communicate openly. Tell employees about the insights your surveys have uncovered. And share your plan for acting upon their feedback as well as any results.
By engaging employees in every stage of the feedback process, they’re much more likely to respond next time you send out a survey request.
You’ve read the tips. Now get some real-life inspiration! Aggregate Industries has already put these employee engagement tips into action. Find out how this manufacturing firm improved digital engagement across their frontline with Blink. Watch the webinar now.
In manufacturing, employee engagement can be transformational. When you improve the employee experience, you improve product quality, workplace safety, and customer service. You also find it easier to attract and retain staff in a tough labor market.
In an engaged workplace, information flows between all members of your workforce. Work is more meaningful thanks to clear company values and a sense of the bigger picture. Employees are empowered to do their best work, every day.
Getting to this point may feel like a challenge, particularly if you haven’t given much thought to employee engagement up to this point. But it’s a lot easier to make engagement improvements when you harness the power of technology.
With the help of a mobile-first employee app, you connect every employee, from your HQ office to the factory floor, regardless of their access to a company email or not. You can conduct surveys, give recognition, and provide easy-access training resources. You can translate information into a variety of languages.
Get an employee app on your team and you’ll find it easy to reach and engage every member of staff, whatever their preferred language and whatever their role.