Over the past decade, the manufacturing industry has faced increasing global competition and seen the movement of assembly jobs overseas, meaning the continuation of innovation and retention of highly skilled employees has become even more critical to long-term success. In the UK, the vote for Brexit has meant that British manufacturing businesses will need to work even harder if they want to maintain or grow their share of the market. A lot of businesses involved in manufacturing in England and Wales are small and medium-sized operations of under 100 employees and in today’s challenging business environment, these small to midsized organisations need to get the most from every available resource — especially their employees — to stay competitive and fuel growth.
However, as manufacturers strive to retain highly skilled labour in today’s tough economic climate, increasing employee pay is not always an option. A more feasible yet highly effective retention strategy instead focuses on increasing employee engagement. Taking steps to boost employee engagement not only helps in retaining valued employees, but it also increases an organisation’s level of performance. According to a recent study, engaged employees have productivity rates that are 70 percent higher than those of non-engaged workers. They also enjoy a 78 percent higher safety record, 70 percent lower employee turnover, 86 percent greater customer satisfaction, and 44 percent greater profitability.
So what can be done to ensure employee engagement within the manufacturing industry?
Making sure your employees feel valued is more important than remuneration when it comes to employee engagement. Recent research by Kronos and the Workforce Institute revealed that remuneration ranked a lowly 10th out of 11 as a reason for an employee resigning, whereas not feeling valued topped the list with 60 percent citing this as the key factor when considering resignation. Especially in a 24/7 production environment, taking the time to listen to your employee ideas and feedback and giving your employees more ownership over their own job can help make them feel valued and as a result more engaged with the business, after all they are the ones who know your production operation in most detail. Where possible, taking into account employee preferred working hours and activity when creating work schedules can positively impact engagement. Scheduling is a careful balancing act. Managers need to assign employees with certain skill sets and certifications to each shift to keep production on track and stay compliant. Generating schedules that maximise productivity and employee satisfaction is critical in the smooth running of a business, none more so than manufacturing, and this is where workforce management systems can really help.
Fostering career development and professional growth is also a key way to engage employees As most manufacturers continue to seek fractional reductions in cost, especially post Brexit, the ongoing development of employee skills — one of the most significant drivers of improved business performance and profit margin — is too often overlooked. After all, many of today’s manufacturers are facing a potential skills shortage due to the large number of employees nearing retirement age. Properly managed training programmes can help ensure that manufacturing organisations develop workers with the necessary skills, keep employees challenged and motivated, and nurture future leaders. At the same time, ongoing professional development has been proven effective in retaining top talent, maintaining quality levels, and achieving competitive advantage.
When manufacturers truly engaged employees, the long-term benefits translate to the bottom line. Research continues to show that a well substantiated relationship exists between employee engagement and business results and workforce management technology can help manufacturing organisations increase their employee engagement. By providing employee self-service applications and automating processes such as time and attendance tracking, scheduling, HR, and labour analytics, manufacturers can empower employees to play a more active role in HR and scheduling activities, take advantage of training and professional development opportunities, and get the continuous feedback on performance required to motivate and encourage innovation. This not only fosters more engaged employees, but also frees up time for HR professionals and production managers to focus more on driving additional business benefits.
For manufacturers looking to control costs post Brexit, while at the same time increasing productivity, focusing on employee engagement through the effective use of workforce management technology is one part of the answer.
Neil Pickering is Marketing & Industry Insights Manager at Kronos