How to Increase the Engagement of Manufacturing Frontline Workers?


A company’s workforce is crucial to its operations, especially in manufacturing. They are the engine of the system. Motivated employees ensure production quality and consistent output.


However, the engagement of manufacturing frontline workers is low. According to a 2020 report by Workday, only 34% of employees are engaged – that’s four out of every ten manufacturing employees globally.


If you ask if that is everything you need to know about the struggling manufacturing labor market, the answer is a resounding no. 


Workers are voluntarily quitting. The great resignation that sprung in 2021 had the most significant impact on manufacturing, the quit rates jumping nearly 60% from pre-pandemic levels. Managers are struggling to retain employees and have to get creative to boost loyalty. 


What Is Employee Engagement in Manufacturing?

Employee engagement is the measurement of enthusiasm and dedication a worker feels towards their work, team, and organization.


An engaged employee cares about their current job and is more likely to be loyal to the company and its performance. On the other hand, a disengaged worker will lack motivation and jump ship when a better opportunity presents itself. 


Most manufacturing jobs are physically and mentally demanding. For example, it requires some lifting, walking, putting together, and standing all day while making sure everything is in order. 


Plus, with the digitalization of manufacturing, Industry 4.0, the industry requires technology, data analytics, and engineering skills. Innovation is cool, but what good is it if no one wants to help you do it?


What Are the Reasons for Disengagement?

Unsatisfactory wage 

If payment is not competitive, people lose interest in their work, doing just the bare minimum.  


Lack of Career Development 

Everybody wants to learn and grow. Without the opportunity to grow, workers tend to feel stuck.


Poor Management 

Psychologically absent management fails to build meaningful relationships, which creates stress and reduces morale in the workforce.


Stressful Workplace 

Burnout harms the employee as well as the company. Working overtime, and living in a stressful environment for days will reduce productivity.


Poor Fit 

It’s impossible to find anyone who is 100% perfect for any job, but poor hiring will haunt an organization’s performance.


Organizations Failing to Adapt 

In an evolving world, the nature of work demands flexibility. Failing to adapt to the labor market will contribute to poor retention.


Top 6 Tips to Increase Front-Line Worker Engagement in the Manufacturing Industry

A 2021 study by The Manufacturing Institute found that employees who felt valued showed higher levels of engagement, 59% versus 13%. 


There are plenty of ways to make a worker feel valued. 


1. Promote Equality and Respect

The division between corporate and frontline workers is a burning issue in manufacturing companies. It is mainly due to a lack of fairness across departments. Provide your frontline workers with the same benefits, perks, and respect as you do for corporate employees.


2. Recognize Hard Work

Hard workers deserve appreciation. Recognition drives employee engagement, especially in manufacturing.

Celebrate wins to boost morale and to show you value them and their contribution. It does not have to include only company-related milestones, so pat them on the back on their personal milestones too.


3. Pay Fair Wages

Unfair pay is one of the biggest complaints in the manufacturing industry. “Money is not everything” is not going to keep them happy during a time of hyperinflation. Prices are on the rise, and you should revisit your remuneration packages.


To maintain financial well-being among your employees, make sure their salary increment nullifies inflation rates. If you fail to do so, you are at risk of losing your best workers to another company that will.


4. Make HR Approachable Again

All workers should benefit from your HR team. If they only stick around in the corporate office, they are neglecting a major part of the workforce. 


Push your HR team to interact with front-line workers regularly. Remind them of their rights and that the team is always open to hearing complaints and ideas.

When they reach out, take their feedback seriously. Make them feel heard and follow up on their feedback. 


5. Promote and Support Skills and Career Development

Boomers are retiring, and going with them are crucial knowledge and skills. Plus, most workers may not have a traditional “ladder” to climb in their careers. Therefore it is necessary to provide opportunities for frontline workers to learn new skills.

When you help them become better professionals and constantly empower them, staff are more likely to be loyal to you.


6. Practice Innovation Through Flexibility

Following the same routine can be boring and unattractive. Managers should make sure workers feel excited when they leave home for work.


One way to increase excitement and motivation is to allow flexibility across schedules and processes. Yes, a proper process is important, but with a lot of experience, workers can find innovative ways to finish a task. 

The Bottom Line

Employee engagement should not be a one-off initiative. Rather, it has to be a continuous practice. Allow workers to experiment, learn, and grow as individuals while making them feel valued and respected.


Remember – you may be making crucial decisions regarding the company’s future. But without your workforce, your ideas will remain as ink on paper. Take care of your employees, and they will take care of your business.


At MMI, we have helped leading brands leverage our extensive network and sub-brands to overcome manufacturing and supply chain challenges. Our decades of experience will help you bring products to market on time both domestically and abroad.


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