A happy and engaged workforce is vital for any business that wants to experience growth. Knowing how your employees are feeling, keeping them informed of business developments and addressing problem areas quickly is your ticket to success. It really is that simple when you’re a small or digital business. However, if you’re in the manufacturing sector, there’s a lot more to consider. So here’s a handy guide for manufacturers on how to improve employee engagement and retention while navigating the tricky climate they face.
But first, why is it so much more complicated?
There are plenty of headaches for senior managers within manufacturing businesses at the moment. How do you keep on top of every new regulation and legal requirement? How do you provide all the health and safety support your workforce needs? How do you remain competitive by embracing new technologies without increasing costs (and prices) too much? How can you ensure you have a consistent and qualified workforce to use this new technology? How do you attract talent and not succumb to the imminent skills shortage affecting the industry? A lot to think about.
The biggest mistake you can make when trying to address the issues above is to forget that every one of them affects your staff too. Perhaps even more than it affects you.
Build an engaged and happy workforce and you’ll weather every hurdle that comes your way far more easily than your competitors will. So let’s work through each point in turn.
Keeping on top of regulations and legislation
GDPR, Gender Pay Gap reporting – just some of the requirements imposed on all businesses recently, but manufacturers have more rules to follow given the impact their operations have on the health and safety of both their staff and their end customers should something go wrong.
With some regulations, businesses can spend months planning their response, involving PR, legal departments and others to ensure they’re on top of it all. However, they often overlook their workforce, sending out no more than an email or letter the day the new legislation comes into force. Any change to a business could not only affect its employees operationally, but also psychologically if they feel they haven’t been properly informed of their new responsibilities. Make them feel like an afterthought and you’ll demotivate and disengage them.
Instead, try and over-communicate with your workforce at every turn. This means informing them as soon as you can that new legislation or regulations are coming into force and explaining clearly, in advance, what you are doing to ensure that changes affect them as little as possible. Also, try to explain the positives of the change to motivate them to help you. By overcommunicating, you’ll inspire confidence in your workforce that you have everything under control.
Maintaining health and safety standards
Health and safety is a serious matter. Every business is striving to reduce accident rates but with customers demanding larger orders, in less time, the pressure is on to deliver. Add to this the growing issue of mental health & wellbeing and businesses now have more pressure on them than ever before to show their staff they care.
But surely, if you’re doing all you can to raise health, safety and well-being standards, then you are acting in the interests of your staff and thereby improving engagement levels?
Yes and no. It’s all very well working with pockets of your organisation where health and safety is at its poorest and then publicising the impact you’ve made, but the workforce as a whole needs to feel like they are safe.
Again, part of this is around communication, and keeping everyone informed of the steps you’re taking to introduce safer practices, such as producing guides, running workshops and enrolling staff on courses to help improve conditions.
It’s also important to help people to help themselves by providing training courses and internal groups where people can come together and discuss issues. Make your workforce feel like a family and they’ll be more engaged than you can imagine.
Pressure to automate human-led processes
It makes good business sense to automate what you can within a business if it’s going to be cheaper and more reliable. However, that’s not a line you can give to an employee who was doing that process before. Tell them you’re replacing part of their role with a robot and they’ll panic that they’ll soon be out of a job and that panic will spread across your workforce like wildfire.
Whenever you intend to automate a process that you currently have employees delivering, it’s wise to have a personal development plan to hand when communicating the change to those affected. The plan should map out how the automation is a good thing for the employee as it will enable them to take on more important responsibilities and progress up the ranks within the company.
That tiny investment in time to create a plan and talk them through it will not only keep that individual on board but also inspire others to work harder for you so they get the same treatment.
The introduction of new systems and technologies
As well as automating certain processes, you may be introducing new machinery or different tools that you wish your workforce to use. Given that these new tools have probably involved quite a bit of investment, it makes sense to ensure you get your money’s worth as soon as they are in place. This does not mean sending out a quick letter or email to those using the machines as they arrive. Oh no.
Advance warning of the change in tools is required, along with explanation of why you’re changing, and an outline of the positive opportunities this will give the employees using them. At this stage, it’s also wise to run through the training you’ll be providing them. Sure, it’s further investment but it’ll be money well spent to get the highest output from machine and staff member alike.
It’s also worth utilising your employee feedback tools to get your employees to play a part in devising a plan for how you introduce the new machinery. Perhaps you even involve them in the process of choosing which machinery you purchase. As they are on the shop floor using the technology, they’ll have the best insight into the process and which features will help them work most effectively.
Attracting talent and the skills shortage
What with all the discussion around Generation Z entering the workforce, it’s safe to say that your existing workforce is probably feeling a little threatened. There’s pressure on businesses to take on apprentices and graduates and create an environment that turns on young people on to the world of manufacturing, but watch you don’t neglect the employees you already have.
Let your competitors chase after young people and spend thousands on marketing campaigns to inspire the next generation of manufacturing greats. While they’re doing that, spend your time on introducing reward and recognition programmes to incentivise every member of staff at your company to give their very best every day. That treatment will pay off for decades to come.
So how is it possible to do all of this with a workforce of thousands?
It’s all about technology. Remember your staff don’t sit at a desk all day, their best tool for communication is their mobile phone. Find a system that enables you to communicate, track performance, train and reward all via a phone app and you’ll soon build an engaged workforce that will stick by you no matter how complicated the industry becomes.
Discover how StaffCircle can help you. Book a demo today.