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Developing Employee Engagement Strategies for Manufacturing

By: Laura Sheffer

Developing Employee Engagement Strategies for Manufacturing

With an aging population that is retiring later and later, we often find ourselves with several different generations in the workforce. In a manufacturing business today, we may see Baby Boomers working alongside Millennials, Generation X, and Generation Y — all under the same business roof.

Now add to this the growing diversity of our population, meaning you may be dealing with employees from many different nations and cultures. How do you keep individuals from all of these different places, age groups, and cultures engaged in working in the same environment?

Having all of these different backgrounds and experiences combined, working towards one goal, can be a huge benefit to your organization — but only if everyone is actively engaged.

Unfortunately, the latest studies show that just the opposite is happening. 20 percent of American workers are “actively disengaged,” which may mean they are even undermining your company’s goals. And more than half are “not engaged,” meaning the welfare of the company means little to them beyond their paycheck. They are likely to be doing the minimum to get by in their job.

So what can be done to make sure your workers are not only diverse and able to contribute a variety of working styles and perspectives but are motivated to work together towards the company’s success? There are several strategies you can employ to keep your multigenerational, multi-national workforce engaged, including:

Application Process

Start right from the beginning with where and how you get your people. If you want engaged, talented millennials and Gen-Yers on your team, you had better make sure your initial hiring application is not only one that people can complete online, but also that you have optimized it for mobile devices.


Once you make sure you have created an environment where the best people can find you, you need to make sure they are happy. Remember: engagement is a two-way street. If you want your employees to engage with your company, you need to engage with them as well.

One of the best ways to do this is with continuous and consistent feedback. The old paradigm of the annual review no longer applies. You can’t afford to wait 12 months to find out how well your employees are integrating into the work environment.

By scheduling regular feedback sessions where you can hear your employees’ ideas and let them know where they are doing well and where they could refocus their efforts, you give your employees a sense of control and a sense of belonging that they don’t get in an environment where employees and executives remain largely segregated.

It’s impossible to overestimate these feelings of belonging and agency when it comes to making happy, productive employees. Studies have shown that many employees value the feeling of belonging and control in their work environment even more than vacation time and other perks when it comes to job satisfaction. Not only does providing regular feedback cost you virtually nothing, but it can also help you hone and streamline your employees to make sure they are the best possible fit for the organization.

Proper Classification

Speaking of fit, many managers may not realize how important it is that employees feel they fit into the organization. Employee fit is not so much about how well they get along with the company culture as it is about how strongly they feel they are in the right position in the company. The more an individual’s skills, talents and career goals match the specific job they are in, the happier, more engaged and more productive they tend to be.

Flexible Scheduling

Another idea that is very important when it comes to managing a multi-generational workforce is the idea of flexible scheduling. Different generations have very different ideas when it comes to working hours. Many Baby Boomers are comfortable with the classic, nine-to-five, five-day work week. Gen-Xers may prefer to swap out mornings for evenings or weekdays for weekends. Millennials blend work and life and may wish to work ‘round-the-clock, while Gen-Yers would often rather work from home.

Accommodating all of these needs is not always feasible in a manufacturing environment. However, by building in a structure of flexibility to your work setup, allowing easy shift-switching, creating more telecommuting opportunities, etc., you make it easier for all of your employees to find a work schedule that will work for them while still allowing an effective workflow throughout the company.

Training and Development Opportunities

The more your employees put into learning about your industry and taking advantage of opportunities to grow, the more engaged and invested they will be in the business. You can help by offering as many continuing education and training opportunities as possible.

Not only is training and development a way to make your employees feel more engaged in the business, but it’s also a way to give them a common bond with others in the organization. Employees who receive the same training or working toward the same goals, even if they are from a different age group or a different culture will easily bond with others. Add in the bonus of increasing your workers’ skills in areas that are important to the success of your business, and it’s easy to see why regular training and development opportunities are worthwhile.

Other Issues to Remember About Manufacturing Employee Engagement

It’s important to remember that with the rise of automation, the roles of workers in the manufacturing industry are changing radically. Most of the jobs that involved men performing a single task on an assembly line by rote robots now handle. Many of those workers are now skilled in programming and controlling those robots. Others transfer to different areas of the manufacturing process that require greater human input.

What this means is that workers have a greater sense of autonomy. You will need to think of more creative ways to engage them. However, if you find the right way to do this, the rewards concerning the success of your business can also be great.

Global Electronic Services is a sponsor of this article.

Author Bio: Laura Sheffer writes and works with clients on B2B Marketing and Engagement strategies.  She currently lives in the Northeast.

Contact info 717-516-5294 lmariedye@gmail.com

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