How manufacturers can get their workers more engaged

Many workers in the manufacturing sector don't really care about what their company's mission is, suggesting that employees aren't engaged as they ought to be.

Virtually every profession has a charter - a written constitution of organizational functions and what its ultimate goals are. The manufacturing industry is chief among them. Though they may differ slightly from one plant to the next, they all center around producing a quality product for the consumer, whether they be individuals or businesses.

However, based on a recent study, it appears that many workers in the manufacturing sector don't really care about what their company's mission is, suggesting that employees aren't engaged as they ought to be.

According to survey research from Gallup, just 33 percent of workers in the U.S. "strongly agree" that their company's mission makes them feel like they play an important role in reaching that declared vision or goal. The number of workers who feel this way is even lower in manufacturing. Less than one-quarter of them don't much care about their company's mission.

Denis Delahunty, senior practice consultant at Gallup, noted that manufacturing centers have tried to overcome this struggle by utilizing slogans, strategically placing them throughout a manufacturing plant so that employees are reminded of why they're doing what they're doing and understand the role that they play in the big picture.

"They put up posters on the shop floor that talk about pride in job roles or doing whatever it takes to succeed," said Delahunty. "They ask front-line supervisors to discuss mission with their workers, hoping that if managers try a little harder or do things a bit differently, their corporate mission will finally sink in and make employees feel a little prouder and work a little harder."

Unfortunately, these efforts have done little to stimulate workers to become more engaged in their line of work and interested in helping their company achieve greatness.

Manufacturers must reach out to their employees
What's the solution? Asking employees directly what matters to them and what would help them want to reach their employer's goal. Delahunty noted that after consulting with dozens of manufacturing companies over the past 10 years or so, workers' wants are generally what any hardworking individual would desire in order to feel fulfilled - the ability to make a good living and take care of their family, feel like they're part of the community in which their business operates and give back through charitable donations and volunteer work.

"Essentially, the mission that mattered the most to them was their ability to continue to exist and to have good-paying jobs - and to apply what they do to create great things for their community," said Delahunty.

The National Association of Manufacturers is the nation's largest industrial trade group, representing 11,000 companies all across the United States, including Hawaii and Alaska. It's stated mission is to "be the voice for all manufacturing in the United States. To inform legislators, the administration, the media, policy influencers and the public about manufacturing's vital leadership in innovation, job opportunity, technological progress and economic security."

NAM also aims to be an advocate of always growing manufacturing to help promote leadership both domestically and abroad.

Manufacturing, in many respects, is the lifeblood of the U.S. economy, contributing roughly $2 trillion to the economy in 2014, up from $1.7 trillion in 2009, based on NAM data. Roughly 12 percent of the U.S.' gross domestic product is attributable to manufacturing. Growth in manufacturing translates into positive returns for the U.S' financial system, adding $1.37 to the economy for every dollar spent in manufacturing, based on statistics from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

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