A revamped manufacturing culture can drive production levels in the factories of the future
The manufacturing landscape is experiencing a transformative shift in the wake of Covid-19. The pandemic not only prompted rapid changes on the factory floor but also led to the departure of vulnerable workers who lacked the option to work remotely. Meanwhile, the remaining workforce is aging, leaving behind a significant skilled labor shortage. Throughout history, manufacturing has consistently reinvented itself through various industrial revolutions. Now, it is time for another reinvention, one that necessitates a culture shift within the manufacturing industry to meet the demands of the current moment.
While the notion of engagement here doesn’t involve proposing on the factory floor, it does emphasize the need to uplift employee morale. Gallup surveys have consistently revealed that the manufacturing industry has the lowest levels of workforce engagement. To improve this culture, manufacturers must actively involve their workers, leading to enhanced retention rates and increased productivity.
Effective strategies involve face-to-face interactions on the factory floor, creating open forums where all voices are valued and heard. Additionally, utilizing regular electronic surveys can ensure feedback from individuals who may not feel comfortable speaking up in group settings. Listening attentively to employees’ insights and implementing changes based on their feedback is vital. By empowering employees to share suggestions and driving change, manufacturers can cultivate an environment that embraces a proactive manufacturing culture.
“A team is not a group of people that works together,” Sal Montes, then-VP of manufacturing and operations at Fender, told BOSS. “A team is a group of people that trusts each other. It’s important to be able to share first as a leader that, ‘I’m not perfect. I don’t have all the answers. In fact, I need you.’ Creating a culture where employees feel secure, safe, and needed is the main thing I’m bringing to the table.”
Boosting Productivity in Modern Manufacturing
The traditional assembly line thrived on specialized workers rapidly producing goods. However, if key individuals are absent, and no one else possesses the necessary expertise, critical bottlenecks emerge, hampering production across the board. The solution lies in cross-training workers across multiple skills. By doing so, these bottlenecks can be avoided, while also tapping into the valuable insights that arise when fresh perspectives approach tasks.
Furthermore, rotating tasks and providing mental stimulation through varied responsibilities help workers evade burnout and prevent stagnation. Engaging in the same repetitive tasks can be mentally taxing, leading employees to experience “quiet quitting” or ultimately resigning, both of which undermine productivity.
By fostering a culture of versatility and enabling workers to acquire diverse skill sets, manufacturers can mitigate bottlenecks, leverage innovative viewpoints, and enhance employee satisfaction, ultimately resulting in increased productivity and efficiency.
According to O.C. Tanner Institute research, 45% of manufacturing workers consider themselves generalists who can seamlessly switch from one task to another on the floor. These nimble workers add a lot of value to operations, and they’re the types of employees that can be promoted from within, bringing vast institutional knowledge with them as they enter the managerial ranks.
Embrace New Values
Younger generations entering the workforce have different expectations of the role their jobs play in their lives. They want work-life balance, and they want fulfillment when they’re at work. “Highly fulfilled employees plan on staying at their organizations 3 years longer than unfulfilled employees,” according to O.C. Tanner’s 2023 Global Culture Report. If employees aren’t feeling fulfilled in the job they have, they’ll be looking for another one. They want to feel like they belong, like they have a community at work, and like their contributions are valued.
“Celebration is key,” Montes told BOSS. “Every step, you have to celebrate, you have to recognize. That keeps the morale and the motivation of the team high.”
Fostering Employee Fulfillment
Creating a workplace that employees truly consider their second home involves addressing tangible aspects beyond the traditional factory floor or hiring manuals. Offering improved benefits that prioritize wellness and mental health can attract new talent to your organization and encourage existing employees to remain committed. As the landscape of manufacturing workers evolves, the culture must evolve alongside them.
This transformation includes providing managers with enhanced resources and support. According to O.C. Tanner’s research, managers often experience burnout, with only one in three displaying emotional engagement at work. Shockingly, managers have witnessed the greatest decline in engagement over the past year, as highlighted in the Global Culture Report.
To counteract these challenges, manufacturers must prioritize providing additional resources, support, and development opportunities for managers. By addressing their well-being and engagement, organizations can foster a positive work environment, leading to increased overall engagement, improved retention rates, and a thriving manufacturing culture.
Embracing Technological Transformation
The manufacturing industry has been steadily advancing automation and digitization, propelled by the pandemic’s accelerated technological adaptation. Manufacturers have largely embraced these changes and reaped the benefits they bring. Now, it is crucial to effectively communicate and promote these innovations on the hiring trail.
These technological advancements do not aim to replace human workers but rather reshape job descriptions, leading to the emergence of more technology- and software-based manufacturing positions. Although this transition requires reskilling and adaptation, it has the potential to make manufacturing jobs more appealing to younger generations seeking a tech-driven atmosphere.
As companies strive for technological advancement in the manufacturing industry, they inevitably undergo shifts in work environment and culture. According to Deanna Baumgardner, president of Employers Advantage, this transformation does not happen overnight but has a tangible impact on the atmosphere on the factory floor and the overall bottom line. By embracing the changing manufacturing culture and effectively integrating technology, manufacturers can enhance employee satisfaction, foster a positive work environment, and drive success in the industry.