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SKILLS


4 WAYS MANUFACTURING COMPANIES CAN ENGAGE FRONTLINE WORKERS


By Frank Wolf, co-founder of Staffbase F


rontline workers in manufacturing organisations are far less physically tied to the day-to-day operations of their companies than their deskbound counterparts. In addition to being physically detached from corporate headquarters, frontline workers generally don’t have company email addresses and they lack access to company computers, meaning they can’t use a traditional intranet to access a centralised source of branded information, updates, and advice. Engaging these employees is therefore a huge challenge.


And yet, frontline workers make up as much as 90 per cent of many manufacturing organisations. These are the people operating heavy machinery and ensuring that the production line runs smoothly, or managing warehousing and logistics operations. So how can manufacturing organisations best engage and retain their frontline workers and build a remote workforce that’s fully committed for the long-term? Here are four ways:


1. UNDERSTAND THE UNIQUE NEEDS OF FRONTLINE WORKERS


The first step toward engaging frontline workers is to understand how their needs differ from those of deskbound employees. Distance from the main office — both physical and digital — affects employee engagement in two basic ways: remote employees often feel detached from the core principles of their organisational culture and community, and they also find it difficult to communicate their views and concerns with their employers and supervisors.


In other words, two directions of communication: from the organisation outward to the frontline workforce and from frontline workers back to the organisation, need to be carefully designed and managed in order for employees to feel better engaged and connected.


It is also important to consider the different types of frontline workers within your organisation, and the particular resources they are most likely to need. Depending on which parts of the factory floor or warehousing operations to which a specific staff member is tied, they will need access to different kinds of basic knowledge, such as health and


safety or equipment operation and maintenance. Depending on which areas of production or logistics they are involved, they will need different channels of communication with their deskbound colleagues in departments such as procurement, sales, or shipping. And no matter where those frontline employees are situated, information needs to be made available to them in real-time.


2. FIND THE BEST WAYS TO COMMUNICATE INFORMATION


Having understood the unique needs of your frontline workers in general, and of the different employee types within that broader group, you next need to think about the best ways of getting them the information they need.


Intranets have long been a popular and effective choice for communicating critical business information to a broad array of employees — but they have traditionally tended to be accessible only on laptops and desktop computers. Today’s frontline workers are far better served by applications that can be accessed on the mobile devices they likely already own and carry everywhere.


Branded employee apps, available through the App Store or Google Play Store, can form a digital front door for a range of vital tools and resources, from shift plans and health and safety information for production and maintenance staff, to updates on orders and production plans. Similarly, mobile apps can be used to communicate with all employees simultaneously via a channel that prioritises “anytime, anywhere” convenience for remote and mobile staff.


3. MAKE IT EASY FOR THE FRONT LINE TO GIVE AND RECEIVE FEEDBACK


In order to really prioritise retention among frontline employees, it’s crucial that the mobile, digital tools they’re given not only provide them with access to essential information and resources, but also give them the means to offer feedback and pose questions to colleagues and managers. Bi-directional communication is key. That’s why more and more manufacturing organisations are using employee apps and mobile intranets as universal platforms for gathering


feedback and opinions from their staff — for example, by delivering targeted surveys to specific audiences across the organisation, or by enabling staff to comment on company news and information. Such dynamic engagement is the digital equivalent of gathering a group of deskbound workers around a conference table in order to hear some important news from a senior manager and then be given the opportunity to ask questions and offer comments.


4. CREATING A DIGITAL WORKPLACE In any organisation, manufacturing or otherwise, workplace culture, the physical space occupied by staff, and the technology they use to do their work all combine to create the employee experience. Whether this experience is positive or negative depends on your ability to effectively deliver these qualities to all of your people.


When manufacturing employees work on the frontline — be it in warehouses, on the factory floor, or out on the road — they risk being less engaged (assuming they’re engaged at all). By providing these workers with a digital, readily- accessible point of access for the knowledge and services they need in their daily working lives, one that also provides two-way channels for the kind of communication and collaborative feedback that fosters alignment and connection with their company and colleagues, organisations will be taking a giant step toward ensuring real engagement with every one of their employees.


Staffbase


www.staffbase.com T: 020 8038 5450


40 MARCH 2020 | FACTORY&HANDLINGSOLUTIONS

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