How to Improve Employee Engagement in the Manufacturing Industry

Discover effective strategies to improve employee engagement in the manufacturing sector. From surveys to team-building, learn how HR can foster a more engaged workforce.

As an HR professional, you are the cornerstone of fostering a dynamic and vibrant workplace. You ensure the organization's engine runs smoothly, and most importantly, that its gears, the people, are well-oiled and driven.

Navigating the terrain of employee engagement, particularly in the manufacturing sector, often presents a unique set of challenges. From bridging the communication gap between shop floors and offices to creating a sense of ownership, these challenges require special attention and tactical approaches.

A report by the Harvard Business Review pointed out that only 16% of the global workforce is highly engaged. As an HR leader, this undoubtedly rings alarm bells. It's a call to transform your organization from the norm to a hub of energetic, enthusiastic, and dedicated employees.

Indeed, the manufacturing sector is not immune to the issue of low employee engagement. While technology advances, bringing in sophisticated machinery and AI-controlled processes, the human element remains vital. This human element is the heart of your organization, pumping life, passion, and innovation into its veins.

The key question now is: How can you bolster this heartbeat and translate it into a higher employee engagement score? How do you create an environment where the majority of your workforce is not only willing but excited to come to work each day, and more importantly, stay with your company for the long haul?

Remember, the quest to improve employee engagement is not a sprint, but a marathon. It demands strategy, endurance, and a keen eye for detail. And while the path may be complex, fear not. You're not alone on this journey.

In this article, we've gathered pearls of wisdom from industry experts and successful case studies. We offer practical guidance on improving employee engagement specifically within the manufacturing sphere. Now, let's roll up our sleeves and dive in together to make your organization a beacon of employee engagement.

Here are the key areas we will explore on improving employee engagement in the manufacturing industry:

How to Improve Employee Engagement in Manufacturing

Why is Improving Employee Engagement in Manufacturing Important

Picture this: you're at a thrilling boat race with two competing teams. The first boat is powered by a group of highly engaged employees, all ten of them rowing in perfect harmony. They each understand their role and are dedicated to reaching the finish line together. The second boat, however, tells a different story. There, only three employees are rowing. Five are sitting back, doing nothing, and two are actively trying to sink the boat.

This analogy paints a vivid picture of how employee engagement—or the lack of it—can influence the performance and success of an organization. The manufacturing sector is no exception to this reality.

In the realm of manufacturing, a highly engaged workforce is a powerful catalyst for productivity, innovation, and operational excellence. These employees approach their tasks with enthusiasm, commit to the company's goals, and contribute proactively towards its growth. They form the sturdy rowers, propelling the boat, or in our case, the organization, towards its objectives.

On the contrary, disengaged employees can severely hamper a manufacturing organization's progress. They could be unproductive, resistant to change, and could potentially disrupt the working environment, much like the individuals in the second boat who were indifferent or trying to sink the boat.

Yet, studies have indicated that the manufacturing sector suffers from some of the lowest employee engagement levels across all industries. This isn't just a statistic—it's an urgent call for action for every HR professional in manufacturing.

As an HR leader, you have the power to change the narrative. You hold the oars of strategy, motivation, and change that can direct your organization towards a culture of high engagement. By understanding the reasons behind the low engagement rates and implementing thoughtful, effective measures to boost engagement, you can transform your organization from the second boat into the first one.

Reasons for Poor Engagement in Manufacturing

Manufacturing is a Hard Job

No one can deny that manufacturing jobs are tough. They often involve physical labor, long hours, and repetitive tasks that can lead to both physical and mental exhaustion. Add to this the odd timings that factory shifts often demand—late evenings, nights, or early mornings—and it's clear why maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be a struggle for many employees.

While some find motivation in the very challenges that their jobs pose, many can find themselves feeling disillusioned or disengaged over time. The monotony, the physical demands, the irregular routines—these factors can pile up, leaving employees feeling alienated or unmotivated. This is where your role as an HR leader becomes crucial. By identifying these challenges and creating an environment that addresses them effectively, you can significantly improve your workforce's engagement.

Tension Between Operators and Corporate

A significant factor contributing to the low engagement in manufacturing is the tension that often exists between operators and corporate employees. Despite working towards a common goal, these two groups sometimes operate within their own siloes, leading to misunderstandings, miscommunication, and tension.

Operators, the ones who work on the shop floor, can sometimes feel overlooked or underappreciated by the corporate employees, including managers, executives, or professionals. There might be a perception that these corporate employees, with their advanced degrees and plush offices, look down upon the operators. Such feelings can breed resentment, creating a divide that only deepens with time.

In recent years, with the surge in work-from-home arrangements for corporate professionals, this divide has only grown. While corporate employees continue their roles remotely, operators, whose roles cannot be performed from home, continue their work from the factory floor. This difference in work arrangements can further exacerbate feelings of disconnect and disengagement among operators.

As an HR leader, addressing this disconnect is imperative. Creating opportunities for open dialogue, mutual understanding, and respect between these two groups can help alleviate tension and foster a more inclusive, engaged work environment.

Lack of Autonomy

A common sentiment among operators is the feeling of lack of autonomy or control over their work. Most decisions, they feel, are made by the corporate employees, with little to no consideration for the operator's input. This top-down approach can leave operators feeling unheard and unimportant, thereby leading to disengagement.

Sure, manufacturing processes often need to follow strict protocols for quality control and safety. Still, this should not be a barrier to incorporating operators' inputs. Their hands-on experience and knowledge of the shop floor can offer invaluable insights that can enhance operational efficiency and safety. By ensuring their voices are heard and their opinions valued, you can significantly boost their engagement and productivity.

How to Improve Employee Engagement in Manufacturing

Survey Employees to Understand What They Like and What They Would Change

One of the first steps in improving employee engagement is understanding the workforce's unique needs and challenges. An effective way to gather this information is through surveys. Anonymous surveys can provide employees with a safe space to express their likes, dislikes, and suggestions without fear of judgment or backlash.

But remember, conducting a survey is only the first step. The key is in how you respond to the findings. As an HR leader, you must ensure that the survey results are thoroughly analyzed and that the insights gained are acted upon. This could involve discussing the results with the management, creating action plans to address the issues raised, and regularly updating the employees about the steps taken. When employees see their feedback being valued and acted upon, it can significantly enhance their trust in the organization and boost their engagement.

Before Implementing Change, Give Operators a Voice and Listen to Their Opinions

When planning any change, whether it's a new policy, a shift in process, or a technological upgrade, involving operators in the decision-making process can make a world of difference. Seek their inputs, understand their concerns, and consider their suggestions. By involving them in the process, you're not just gaining valuable insights—you're also showing them that their opinions matter.

When operators see their suggestions being considered and implemented, it can instill a sense of ownership and pride in their work. This, in turn, can have a positive effect on their engagement and productivity. As an HR leader, it's important to facilitate this culture of inclusivity and respect in your organization.

Team Building Between Operators and Corporate Employees

Building strong, positive relationships between operators and corporate employees can significantly improve engagement. Team-building activities can help break the ice, foster understanding, and build a stronger, more cohesive team. This could be anything from team outings, workshops, or joint projects that require collaboration between the two groups.

Through these activities, operators and corporate employees can gain a better understanding of each other's roles, responsibilities, and challenges. This mutual understanding can help bridge the divide, alleviate tensions, and build a stronger, more engaged workforce.

Sensitivity Training for Corporate Employees

Last but not least, consider implementing sensitivity training for corporate employees. Such training can help them understand and appreciate the challenges that operators face and the value they bring to the organization. It can also help them learn how to communicate more effectively and respectfully with operators, thereby promoting a more inclusive and respectful work environment.

Enhancing employee engagement is no small feat—it requires ongoing efforts, constant monitoring, and a genuine commitment to the well-being and success of your employees. But the rewards it offers are well worth the effort. With a more engaged workforce, your manufacturing organization can enjoy improved productivity, higher quality standards, better employee retention, and overall business growth.

As HR leaders, our role is to steer the boat of our organization towards these goals. Let's take the oars of strategy, motivation, and change in our hands and row our organizations towards a future of high employee engagement and success. The journey may be challenging, but with every stroke, we move closer to our destination. And remember, in the journey of improving employee engagement, every stroke counts.

Enhancing Employee Engagement in a Manufacturing Environment is Not a One-Time Effort

It’s essential to remember that enhancing employee engagement in a manufacturing environment is not a one-time effort, but an ongoing process that requires patience, strategy, and genuine care. You, as an HR professional, have the power to steer your organization's ship towards higher engagement, improved productivity, and overall growth.

By addressing challenges head-on, understanding your workforce's needs, facilitating communication, and promoting a culture of respect, you're well on your way to turning your manufacturing organization into a powerhouse of engagement. The fruits of your labor will manifest not only in a happier, more engaged workforce but also in the tangible success of your organization.

If you're interested in learning how Sparkbay can help you improve employee engagement in manufacturing, you can click here for a demo.