Many business owners take their hourly workers for granted, ignoring their needs due to a common notion that they can always be replaced. They focus on engaging their salaried employees, as they usually put more time and effort into finding, hiring, and training them.
The same holds true for hourly manufacturing workers. Manufactured workers include welders, technicians, engineers, assemblers, and much more. What managers often don't realize is that hourly workers are the backbone of the business—the ones bearing the brunt of heavy labor, in charge of completing most of the daily tasks, and responsible for providing excellent customer experiences. And with approximately 15 million manufacturing workers employed in 2019, that’s a significant chunk of the population that’s often overlooked and unappreciated.
One way to keep your manufacturing workers fulfilled is to keep them engaged. Employee engagement is key to decreasing turnover, motivating staff, and keeping operations running smoothly. Here's what you can do to effectively engage your hourly manufacturing workers and make them a part of your team.
Give them a sense of purpose
When your hourly manufacturing employees have a sense of purpose in your organization, they will go above and beyond their assigned tasks to turn your company into a successful one. They will want to contribute more in order to feel meaningful and for you to recognize their efforts.
How can you make their work meaningful? Through clear and effective communication. Communicate with all your manufacturing employees professionally yet in a friendly manner, because you're all partners working towards a common goal.
There was a study by Gallup on factory worker motivation that showed that hourly workers in a factory don't really care about the organizational mission, but rather about giving back to the community. If you could communicate to them how their work can contribute to the community, you could motivate them better and significantly increase their engagement.
Build meaningful relationships
Building strong relationships with your hourly workers is a fantastic way to increase their engagement and retention. When they see you as a friend rather than merely a manager, they will definitely perform much better. Strong working relationships also foster company loyalty—workers in a factory who feel part of the community are more motivated to stay on, regardless of whether they get a better offer or another opportunity to work elsewhere.
It's crucial that you create enjoyable experiences so that they feel great when they clock in and build products. Friendly relationships are your best bet for achieving that. What's also very important is being available to them. Being there are crucial moments when they need you is what will show them that you care and value them.
One step in the right direction is to also keep them in the loop on issues that will directly impact them. Keep them updated, just like you do with your salaried employees, and they will start seeing you as a partner and a friend. It will boost their morale and create a wonderful workplace culture that they will not want to leave.
Involve them in Problem-Solving Processes
It's a very common practice among business owners and managers to ask their salaried employees for help when coming up with solutions to various problems and creating a company strategy. That's completely normal, as they are often knowledge workers with plenty of experience and expertise regarding various business-related issues.
However, this doesn't mean that you should overlook hourly employees and the strengths they have to offer. Perhaps some of them have a groundbreaking solution to a particular problem. After all, they are the ones engaging in numerous day-to-day operations or at the heart of your manufacturing processes, so they most likely have first-hand information regarding improvements that need to be made or concerns that need to be addressed.
That's precisely why you should give them a seat at the table. Tap into their knowledge and really hear what they have to say. Give them a chance to really be a part of your team and introduce some change in your organization, the change that they’ve already brought about on their level. Their hands-on experience may just be what your company has needed all along.
Including them in your strategizing process will give them a sense of purpose and motivate them to continue contributing to your company. Another study by Gallup on hourly vs. salaried workers' job satisfaction shows that 46% of hourly workers are satisfied with recognition for work accomplishments. So give the recognition that’s due them for their hard work and their invaluable contributions to your problem-solving process.
Open the Door to Promotions
If your manufacturing workers don't have an opportunity to grow in your company and actually build a career, chances are they will simply leave you after a certain period of time. If you don't allow them to grow, they'll find a place where they can.
The aforementioned Gallup study on job satisfaction of hourly and salaried workers also shows that only 35% of hourly workers are satisfied with opportunities for promotion. With this statistic in mind, make sure each and every hourly worker has a chance to build a future at your company. Some may have completely different career aspirations and your company is only a stepping stone towards their goals, but it may not be the case with all of them. Take the time to talk to them and find out who would like to build an in-house career. Once you know that, lead them on a path to promotion. That's a very good incentive that can lead to lifetime loyalty and considerably improve your entire organization.
If you only focus on investing time and effort into your salaried workers and disregard your hourly employees and their needs, your company may never reach the level of engagement you're looking for. Only when you fully recognize your hourly workers as valuable contributors to your company's success, as they definitely are, will you be able to truly grow.
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