How To Keep Plant Workers Engaged in Times of Uncertainty and Change

Employee engagement is a critical component for any organisations’ success. Usually, the more engaged your workers are, the better they perform. Yet, keeping employees engaged is no easy feat.

The recent coronavirus pandemic has considerably impacted the global workforce. Many businesses have encouraged their staff to work from home. Yet, for many workers, this business model is not applicable.

Plant workers, for example, need to be physically present in their workplace to get the job done. Keeping plant workers engaged can be challenging, especially when they may be exposed to health and safety hazards. A recent report suggests that around four per cent of all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. are directly related to livestock plants.

A study reveals that the COVID-19 pandemic led to over 570,000 manufacturing plant workers being laid off. Moreover, plant workers have always faced the threat of automation and digitisation in their organisations. Many fear that sooner or later, robots will reduce the need for human workers.

With so many negative variables looming, keeping plant workers engaged is challenging. In this article, we take a look at the different ways to enhance plant workers’ engagement.

Workers engagement stats you should know

Studies on employee engagement (and disengagement) are often carried out to find out its causes and implications. Some reports suggest that disengaged workers cost U.S. organisations up to $550 billion every year. Below are nine worker engagement statistics you should know.

Key findings from Gallup:

  • Businesses with highly engaged employees report 21 per cent higher levels of profitability.
  • Engaged workers are 17 per cent more productive than disengaged employees.
  • Organisations with engaged staff report a 41 per cent reduction in absenteeism.
  • An engaged workforce directly impacts your customer ratings by over ten per cent.
  • Businesses with an engaged workforce report a 20 per cent increase in sales.

Some engagement stats from Achievers:

  • Only 19 per cent of employees consider themselves engaged and plan to stay at the same company.
  • Around eight per cent of employees report being completely disengaged in their current position.
  • Feeling undervalued is the biggest barrier to engagement, according to 26 per cent of employees.
  • 35 per cent of employees feel their organisation can do more to improve the experience of employees.

How to keep plant workers engaged

The coronavirus pandemic left most businesses with two choices; either find a way for their employees to work safely or shut down their operations. Plant workers, most of the time, cannot complete their jobs remotely.

Maintaining high levels of employee engagement in such situations may be difficult. Here are eight ways to keep your plant workers engaged, even when faced with constant change.

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Upskill your plant workers

Regardless of the industry, you operate in, technology is constantly evolving. Businesses are always on the lookout for the next technological advancement that will crank up their productivity (and profitability).

According to the International Federation of Robotics (IFR), around 3.05 million industrial robots have been installed worldwide, between 2017 and 2020.

With these numbers, it is not surprising that plant workers may feel their job is threatened. Upskilling your workforce to be able to operate new machinery reduces their ‘fear’ of being replaced. This can prove very helpful if you have recently adopted new technology in your business.

Upskilling your workers empower them to perform better. Moreover, this ensures your workers are adequately trained to get the most out of your new tech. This also paves the way for the adoption of future tech within your organisation.

Key takeaway

Upskilling your plant workers may improve your overall manufacturing productivity and employee engagement.

Make your policies and procedures clear and easily accessible

As an employee, there is nothing worse than having unclear directives to follow. Your organisation’s policies and procedures should be easy to understand. Whatever procedures you have in place should always be readily accessible to all your workers.

Following the recent COVID-19 pandemic, many organisations have had to update their workplace policies. Having unclear safety protocols may lead to unsafe workplace conditions. This, in turn, can lead to unnecessary stress and disengagement from your workers.

Ensuring your procedures are clear and easily accessible to everyone is a must. This shows you care about your workforce and that you want to keep them safe. Ideally, your managers (or yourself) should be easily reachable to clear out any misunderstandings, if any.

Key takeaway

Workers that feel safe in the workplace are less likely to be absent.

Empower your managers with the right tools and information

Managers have a key role in the overall performance of any organisation. Poor management can lead to disengaged employees. According to Mental Health America (MHA), disengaged employees may lead to $500 billion in lost productivity yearly.

Your managers should have rapid access to accurate information at all times. This includes access to protocols, rules, and procedures. They also need the right set of tools to perform to their optimal level, such as the right communication tool.

Moreover, your managers need to have the authority to address any issue in real-time. This ensures that your workforce can rely on someone whenever something is not right. Consider offering leadership workshops to your team of managers and supervisors.

Key takeaway

You should carefully choose your managers and empower them. Managers have a direct impact on the engagement of employees.

Prioritise empathetic and personalised communications

Dealing with hundreds of workers is not the easiest from a communication perspective. Different employees have different personalities, expectations, and problems. Yet, they all share one thing in common; their workplace.

Building a relationship based on trust between employee and employer is a good way to increase engagement. Some workers may feel more stressed than others, so it is important to demonstrate empathy. Aim to regularly communicate with your workforce and show your appreciation.

Even better, personalise your communication with your workers. Avoid communication ‘templates’ when interacting with your workforce. You can personalise your communications based on workers’ roles, languages, or responsibilities.

Key takeaway

Communication within the workplace impacts a worker’s performance and engagement.

How To Keep Plant Workers Engaged

Image: Pexels

Keep your plant workers connected

The coronavirus pandemic has significantly disrupted the connection among employees. Previously, everyone in your workforce would be able to freely walk around and discuss with one another. Now, with social distancing measures in place, most people are staying away from each other.

Workers should feel they are connected to their surrounding environment. This allows them to be part of a group (or team), with a common objective. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has made ‘distancing’ the new norm.

Somehow, this may have created communication gaps between different hierarchical levels within an organisation. For example, a maintenance worker is more likely to communicate with members of his maintenance team, instead of the top management staff. Keeping the connection between multiple hierarchy levels of your organisation is a sign of healthy communication.

Key takeaway

Many organisations are finding it hard to keep their workforce connected. Educate and encourage your workers to communicate while maintaining appropriate safety measures.

Promote teamwork and collaboration

As previously mentioned, there seems to be a major disruption in the way workers communicate with one another, following the coronavirus pandemic. Some positions still require teamwork in order to be successfully completed. Every role is critical in factory production – from the product packaging guys to the quality control workers.

Keeping your workers safe while encouraging communication is not easy. You need to find ways to bring employees together as a team. Try different social collaboration and communication tools and see what works best for your business. When your choice is made, ensure you train your workers to use these tools to their full potential.

Promoting teamwork and collaboration may be odd in times where social distancing prevails. But when done right, this can enhance employee engagement. At the same time, this gives your workers the opportunity to learn how to use a new collaboration tool.

Key takeaway

Equip your workforce with the right tools that enable teamwork and collaboration.

Encourage plant workers to give feedback

Soliciting and welcoming feedback from your workforce is a great way to show their opinion matters. A study points out that 89 per cent of HR leaders feel ongoing peer feedback results in a positive impact for their organisation. Workers who feel their voice is heard are more likely to be engaged.

A report by LinkedIn highlights that one in three companies do not act on employee feedback. Furthermore, Glint found that workers who feel their employer won’t act on their feedback are seven times more likely to be disengaged.

Showing you are willing to listen is only part of the game. You need to get things moving and show that your worker’s feedback matters. However, not all feedback you receive will be actionable. Take action on the most useful ones.

Key takeaway

Soliciting employee feedback is not enough; you need to act on them. Otherwise, your employees are seven times more at risk of being disengaged.

Set up an employee recognition program

Regardless of your industry, having an employee recognition program in place is always a good idea. Everyone likes to feel that their efforts are being rewarded. Data from the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) suggests that having a formal reward program in place increases performance by 22 per cent.

The same report highlights that having a recognition program in place for longer than six months can increase performance by up to 44 per cent. You should give every worker the opportunity to be recognised for his efforts.

A formal way of rewarding your top performers engages and motivates your workforce. Rewards may vary, but the idea is to recognise and acknowledge the commitment of your employees.

Key takeaway

Engaging and retaining your top talent starts with recognising the effort they put in.

In Summary

It is easier to have a disengaged workforce than an engaged one. This makes it even more worth it to invest in your employee experience. Think of it; having an engaged workforce already gives you the edge over competitors.

Your organisation faces less workforce turnover, enjoys more profitability and productivity. Keeping your plant workers engaged is very likely the key to long-term success and sustainability for your business.


About the Author

Bryan Christiansen is the founder and CEO of Limble CMMS. Limble is a modern, easy to use mobile CMMS software that takes the stress and chaos out of maintenance by helping managers organise, automate, and streamline their maintenance operations.

Team 6Q

Team 6Q