As team leaders, production managers have the essential responsibility of motivating factory workers. There are many easy ways to engage employees in an office setting, but if you’re looking for new ways to motivate factory workers, it’s a different story. It’s much more difficult to maintain a relationship when they’re on the production line and not sitting next to you at a desk.
The management style you use can make or break the success of your company. Your style should depend on your business goals, employees, and personality type. Different worker segments need different leadership styles—a Navy Seal team requires a much different style than a yoga studio.
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If you manage factory workers, it’s key to understand they don’t come into work simply because they want to work for you. They have their own goals, ambitions, and reasons for coming to work that won’t always align with yours. Your job is to learn what motivates them to suit up for work every day.
Gaining new perspectives will unlock key insights to improve employee engagement and ultimately the bottom line. Non-desk employees need extra support and when they’re provided with the necessary training and resources, they become much more motivated to put in a productive shift.
Here are four ways to motivate your factory workers and get your production line running like a well-oiled machine:
1. Add Meaning to Their Work
Every factory worker has different needs. We can use Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as a guide to see what employees need to reach their full potential. Most employers simply cover the two tiers of basic needs, never trying to reach the higher levels people need both at work and at home.
During a company retreat, Chip Conley, Head of Hospitality at Airbnb, asked groups of housekeepers what would happen if someone from Mars landed on Earth and asked them, “What should we call you?” They came up with some pretty interesting names like, “The Serenity Sisters”, and “The Clutter Busters.” In a study done surrounding hourly workers, three core values arose: meaning, dignity, and self-determination.
Meaning: Every job has a meaning and is important no matter the function. Ditch-digger, fry makers, stable cleaners, you name it. Just because they don’t require higher education doesn’t mean their contribution isn’t valuable. If nobody did these jobs, no one could do their jobs.
Dignity: Dignity comes with how an employee is treated at work. Belittling, neglect, or other unprofessional behavior can drastically reduce productivity, health, and collaboration in any environment.
Self-determination: Self-determination is defined as an employee’s freedom within some boundaries to choose what, when, and how a task is accomplished. Giving employees a sense of control and ownership provides an elevated level of satisfaction, which leads to our next point…
2. Give Factory Workers More Control Over What They Produce
Giving factory workers the ability to make their own decisions and see direct result will give them more skin in the game to do their job well. Talk about adding meaning to their work!
In a study done on San Francisco garbage collectors, workers rated themselves very high on job happiness. This was due in large part to being able to choose their own routes and the amount of time spent on each route.
Showing you trust your workers by giving them freedom to manage their workflow shows you respect their ideas and, in turn, they’ll want to keep bringing you value.
3. Incorporate Bottom-Up Communication
Most companies only have a top-down internal communication strategy, meaning management can send information to employees, but not the other way around.
By using an employee app that allows bottom-up communication, you not only improve internal communication in your factory, you also give workers the floor to express their ideas and instill a sense of belonging. The more you make employees feel like they’re part of the bigger picture, the more they’ll give back.
Leverage internal communications best practices when you use the Beekeeper employee engagement app and get more engaged employees in your digital workforce.
Allowing bottom-up communication is especially important with distributed workforces. See how Seaboard Foods, a manufacturing with more than 5,000 employees across six states, has improved their internal communications and operations with Beekeeper which facilitates two-way communication.
4. Treat Factory Workers with Dignity, Regardless of Role
In the book Life on the Line, the author Solange de Santis recounts the year and a half she spent working in a General Motors plant. She chronicled her experience, through the tough working conditions and disputes between workers and management.
Her biggest takeaway from the experience was how hard-working, skilled, and innovative the factory workers really were. The stereotypical view of factory workers as wage slaves was put aside.
De Santis showed these workers make a real difference for the company’s bottom line when they are treated with respect, given room to be creative, and have open dialogues across different levels of the business.
For factory managers looking for some key points to remember when brainstorming motivational ideas for internal comms, these four factors should be met:
- Goal must be clearly understood
- Progress must be measurable
- Have control over achieving the goal
- A reward system when goals are met
5. Don’t Forget About Company Culture
In an industry that’s so laser-focused on the bottom line, company culture is often just an afterthought for many manufacturing executives. In a recent interview we did with Mark Whitten, Director of Operations, USA at Martinrea International he emphasized the importance of employee engagement in the manufacturing space.
Employee engagement is absolutely critical. If employees are not engaged, they won’t want to be at work, and they will only put in the minimum amount of effort required. As employers, we want 100% committed employees, the ones who will give what I describe as “discretionary effort.”
Simply paying workers more won’t give employees more job satisfaction. Creating meaning and motivation must go hand in hand to engage correctly. Working with non-desk employees to develop clear intrinsic goals and acting as a model for them through open dialogue will create a more motivating and fulfilling factory floor.