This article written by Mary Ann Pacelli at the Manufacturing Extension Partnership originally appeared on the NIST/MEP blog on November 12, 2015.
As a manufacturer, you don’t want workers – you want company ambassadors. Workers are individuals who show up and get their tasks done. Company ambassadors are a team of employees who are enthusiastic about their careers, and they are inspired and empowered to proactively help your business grow.
Company ambassadors are innovative and are confident in their ability to achieve excellence. They serve as cheerleaders for your company to the outside public. You can guide your workers into becoming company ambassadors through workforce development initiatives.
Sometimes, small- and mid-sized manufacturers don’t believe they have the resources for these types of efforts. “I don’t have the money and manpower to give everyone a raise,” goes the thinking. But workforce development isn’t about raises and bonuses; it’s about helping your employees become greater, and cultivating a positive emotional connection between your staff and the organization. Carroll Thomas, The Director for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership, recently captured the thought best in a recent blog entry by saying, “manufacturing is about putting people first.”
Here are a few tips to get started:
1) Provide Formal Skills Training and Education
Investing in your workers’ professional and personal growth demonstrates that you genuinely care about their future. From certification programs to associate degrees, there are many affordable options emerging to provide more education for employees.
Employee development not only occurs in the classroom, but on the job as well. New projects and responsibilities assigned through a mentor program encourage growth and development.
Many continuous improvement programs and the adoption of quality management systems are built around developing the skills of your workforce.
The best way to facilitate meaningful development is to find out how each employee wants to grow, develop a personalized plan aligned with the organization’s goals, and then to match that with opportunities both internally and externally.
2) Place an Emphasis on Communication and Feedback
Improving communication starts with ensuring that communication is open, honest and a two-way street between employer and employee.
Employees feel more respected when their opinions are valued and taken into consideration. A crucial rule is employees are able to voice opinions without retribution. Foster an environment where employees are encouraged and comfortable speaking with management about their input, especially as it relates to operations and production issues. Subsequently, demonstrating that employee feedback was considered and implemented is vital. For example, a notice was shared with staff such as, “Employees brought to our attention that they wanted to see x changed. Management agrees and this is what we’re doing to address x.”
On the flip side, prioritize having managers communicate their goals to employees. When management properly articulates updates on key projects and company strategies, employees feel they have a stake in the organization. Additionally, your employees are more likely to make mistakes or errors if they don’t understand the bigger picture. A Harvard Business Review reported that 95% of employees don’t understand or don’t know their business’ strategy. Make it a goal to have your workforce part of the 5% that do.
3) Encourage Employee Vacations
Employee burnout is real and can lead to turnover. Various studies show that Americans aren’t using all of their allotted vacation days. A study from research firm Harris Interactive conducted for the careers website Glassdoor found that employees only used approximately half of their eligible vacation days, and more than 60% worked while on vacation.
When employees go on vacation, they get an important time to take a break and recharge. Many employers are switching to more flexible vacation schedules. Show your employees that you care about their mental health – monitor their vacation days and if you notice that they’re going unused, encourage them to take advantage.
Part Two of the series continues on the NIST/MEP blog where they discuss topics such as employee engagement and cross-training.