Factory workers make up part of the ‘deskless workforce’—those who aren’t physically tied to a desk and work outside of conventional workplace norms. Considering deskless workers now makeup 80% of the global workforce, it’s imperative employers adapt their business practices to meet this shift in working style.
Internal communication is a practice that employers often fail to tailor to their deskless workers, with companies displaying a tendency to overlook it in favor of elements that directly influence profit (think sales and production).
Additionally, when it comes to communication, there seems to be a gulf in perception. 80% of leaders say they survey their employees about how they feel. This contrasts with what deskless workers suggested, with only 37% saying their company communicated regularly.
Manufacturers must work hard to correct this misconception and find ways to effectively communicate with their workforce. Failing to do so can have a detrimental impact on your business and your employees.
Keep reading to find out why communication in a factory setting is so important, and what practices you can implement to improve your internal comms.
Why is communication important in a factory setting?
When communication is efficient and seamless, the entire operation runs smoother. For example, faults with machinery can be easily reported and solved as quickly as possible, minimizing the lifespan of a problem. And if workers can easily communicate areas for improvement, then companies can prevent some problems altogether.
But it’s so much more than simply optimizing the production line. Employees who feel connected to a company and its workers show productivity increases of 20-25%, and 71% of frontline workers state that modernized communication tools increase their productivity, proving that communication optimizes both your workforce and the work they’re doing.
Effective communication contributes to increased employee engagement. In fact, 43% of highly engaged employees receive feedback at least once a week. The manufacturing industry is currently struggling with an engagement problem, with only 25% of workers feeling engaged—trailing the national average by 8 percentage points. Optimizing communication is one way to bridge the gap and bring that number up.
Companies with effective internal communication see employee retention increase by 4.5 times, compared to businesses with ineffective communication. And 52% of workers say they remain with a company because they feel supported and appreciated. Simply put, improved communication will help manufacturers hang on to their employees—something that’s highly valued within an industry that’s hemorrhaging skilled workers.
Reduced workplace injuries
Effective communication can help reduce workplace injuries and promote a safer working environment. When manufacturing safety practices are seamlessly communicated to workers, and potential problems are easily reported to decision-makers, accidents can be avoided.
The cumulative result of all the above is increased profit. When your production line is more efficient, your workers are more engaged, injuries are down, and you’re not wasting time and money replacing lost employees, you’re going to experience greater earnings. One leading industry consultant suggests that improved communication could increase a company’s bottom line by more than 10%.
How to improve communication with your factory workers
Lean on technology
Many manufacturers value effective communication but fail to implement it due to the practical challenges posed by their workforce. Manufacturing employees are, by nature, hard to reach, and spend most of their time on the move while working a variety of shift patterns.
Compensate for this by leaning on technology. Consider introducing locations where workers can access a computer during their break. Here they can catch up on company news, access employee recognition programs, and join chat groups with fellow workers.
Or take advantage of the widespread use of smartphones and introduce a workplace app that connects workers with one another. It’s likely everyone in your workforce uses a smartphone, meaning they can access the app anywhere at any time and feel supported throughout their working day.
Keep employees up to date
We’ve already outlined the importance of frequent communication with your workforce—you’ll experience greater productivity, engagement, and retention by remaining connected to your workers. And we know technology can be used to effectively reach your dispersed workforce. Now we need to consider how we are going to present the information and get your messages across.
Newsletters are a great way of keeping your employees in the loop, and their sole purpose is to keep your workforce informed and updated with all things relevant to your company. Email is, by far, the best way to send your newsletter—88% of emails are opened within 24 hours. However, newsletters are often a weekly or monthly medium. Keep your workers updated with daily messages and updates, ensuring engagement remains consistent.
Try to replicate social media behaviors in the workplace. This means allowing employees to post news, discuss ideas, and ask questions. Essentially, you want to facilitate open communication in the workplace and foster a sense of community.
Improve onboarding process
Good communication starts from day one, meaning the onboarding process is the first opportunity manufacturers have to practice effective communication and present themselves to their new recruits as a company that supports and listens to their workforce.
The value of an optimized onboarding process cannot be understated. Get it right, and you provide a platform for your workers to be productive from the get-go. And by providing your employees with the skills and knowledge to succeed immediately within their role, you improve retention. In fact, a great onboarding process ensures 69% of employees remain with the company during the first three years.
So how do you improve your onboarding process? There are numerous best practices manufacturers could implement, however, we recommend the following:
Make it seamless
Create a community
Emphasize your strengths
Give employees a voice
For a more detailed description, click here.
Provide ongoing access to training
While onboarding is the first opportunity for effective communication, it isn’t the last. Your workforce wants to feel supported and valued throughout the entirety of their time with your company—something that’s achieved via ongoing training.
As manufacturing evolves, so must your workforce. The skills provided during onboarding may become outdated, and without continuous learning your workers will lack the skills necessary to thrive in their role, resulting in a lack of motivation and engagement. Avoid this with training that regularly updates the skills of your employees.
And by committing to the development of your workforce, you’re laying out a path for future personal development, providing the soft skills necessary for your workers to earn recognition and promotion.
Additionally, continuous training is an easy way to keep your workforce updated on new policies or processes, proving to be more engaging than a standard bulletin that workers might not acknowledge.
With its plethora of benefits, including retention and productivity, ongoing training is something manufacturers can’t afford to ignore.
Collect regular feedback
Feedback will provide insight into what’s happening on the factory floor, highlighting issues that range from the manufacturing process to social dynamics. For example, your workers might report that certain areas of the manufacturing process could be automated, resulting in a superior method of production. Or they could highlight friction between a manager and employees, prompting you to take action.
You’ll also gather information on the personal feelings of your workers. Are they happy in their role? If not, what could make them happier? A deeper understanding of your workforce can act as a catalyst for change and help you make decisions that will improve productivity, engagement and reduce churn.
Collecting feedback from a dispersed workforce can prove challenging. We recommend using surveys as they can be easily distributed and tailored to receive specific information.
Foster a culture of recognition
Manufacturing has a recognition problem, with only 10% of employees stating that recognition features in their workplace culture. It’s important manufacturers work to correct this as businesses that regularly recognize their employees experience a 59% decrease in turnover, and a 14% increase in engagement, productivity, and performance.
Fostering a culture of recognition must start with leadership. Seeing those who run the company investing in recognition will convince others to follow suit. Once the foundation is set, develop recognition by employing reward and recognition programs, an employee of the month scheme, and even regular messages of thanks.
Make your workers feel valued
Internal communications are about so much more than highlighting how great the company is—it’s also about turning the spotlight onto your employees and calling attention to their achievements.
Introduce employee spotlights as these will provide an opportunity for your workers to discuss their achievements while also asking questions that spotlight your company’s values and mission.
eduMe is a mobile learning platform that helps you seamlessly communicate with your dispersed workforce via a range of features including surveys and customizable content creation, resulting in higher levels of retention and productivity.
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