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Posted on : Thursday 18th June 2020 09:22 AM

How Manufacturing Companies Can Be Strategic in Their Use of Engagement Initiatives

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Executives in the manufacturing industry know that engaging employees is crucial. Indeed, across all trades, organizations are investing $18 billion on tools to bolster employee engagement, yet the return on these investments is unclear. In line with Gallup’s State of the Workplace report, only 25 percent of manufacturing workers are engaged at work. It is the lowest engaged occupation across the United States and is a full eight percentage points lower than the national average for employee engagement.


Research has exposed that some of the most commonly-used employee engagement initiatives are not as engaging as they could be. Like for example, service award recognition and company-wide physical fitness challenges are limited in their scope and influence. In the same way, if your company emphasizes work-life balance or compensation packages as the end-all for engaging employees, you’ve just hit the tip of the iceberg.


Think Beyond Traditional Initiatives


With the fast-paced move to automation within the manufacturing industry, appealing and keeping skilled workers has never been more important. This is the result of multiple factors, such as the looming knowledge shortage resulting from retirement of skilled workers as well as a highly competitive labor market where potential and current employees are more likely to leave if they are remotely unhappy in their positions. Now more than ever, it’s crucial to adopt a deeper and more dynamic approach to engagement to keep your best employees satisfied, and loyal to your organization.


Understand What Drives Employee Engagement


While engagement has been studied for years, research from Deloitte reports that just 22 percent of executives actually believe they have created an excellent and differentiated employee experience brand. So, if so many people are at a loss, what actually engages and retains employees? A recent study conducted by market research and strategy firm Chadwick Martin Bailey (CMB) sought to answer that question. Their findings reveal that there are five types of psychological benefits that, when nurtured at the organization level, drive employee engagement and retention:

•             Personal identity benefits

•             Social identity benefits

•             Cultural identity benefits

•             Functional benefits

•             Emotional benefits


In its study, CMB reported that personal, social and cultural identity benefits are commonly effective at engaging employees. These three types of benefits foster workers’ sense of pride, self-esteem and belonging. Initiatives that were found to mainly influence these psychological benefits would be recognition and incentive programs, company communications, and employee events.


Frequently, organizations have focused their efforts on functional benefits – initiatives which include compensation, benefits and perks like free food or convenience services. Surprisingly, the research found that functional benefits are relevant, specifically for drawing in talent. Nonetheless, they only explain about 50 percent of why an employee would really stay with the organization. Manufacturing companies can learn from the study’s results that they shouldn’t stop at functional benefits when looking to truly inspire engagement in the workplace. Rather, employers should put attention on tailoring engagement initiatives to attend to each of these psychological benefits to create deeper, more meaningful connections with their employees. Invoking these types of positive feelings in your employees creates longer-lasting satisfaction and also means that your workforce will be more likely to advocate for your organization.


Start with Gaining an Understanding of Where You Are – and Where You Want to Be


Defining your organization’s unique engagement strategy should always commence with research, specifically among your present employees. By asking for their feedback, you can gain insight in to your areas of strength as well as opportunities for the future. You may be amazed at the wide range of responses you receive.


By providing employees with the best opportunities and programs to feel supported, engaged and connected to the company, your organization can better:

•             Attract strong talent and retain top performers;

•             Embrace a positive company culture;

•             Improve interactions with customers; and

•             Boost employee engagement and fuel employee-driven advocacy.


Create Connection with Shared Purpose and Brand Messages


Consider this: when your employees buying a new personal vehicle, they instantly become part of the manufacturer’s and dealer’s inner circle. They will receive personalized emails, phone calls, and special offers. These little connections allow manufacturers to encourage their customers to become repeat shoppers and advocates for their brand. Your employees are willing to experience this same sense of connection with your company, too.


Thus, to optimize employee engagement, the way that you explain and promote the work you do for your employees need to always be shared in a way that emphasizes this sense of community, aligns with your overarching brand and reinforces a shared purpose across all employees. Doing this ensures that you can achieve the following:

•             Instill a strong sense of purpose in your employees and a sense of pride in the company;

•             Enhance employees’ sense of belonging to your company and your company culture; and

•             Drive positive emotional experiences.


Taking the time to customise your engagement strategy to your unique workforce will differentiate your organization from the others you compete with in the extremely competitive and volatile manufacturing labor market.


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