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Manufacturing Can Be Improved by Strong Communication to and from Workers

One way to avoid disruptions in manufacturing is to implement feedback tools for employees to share open and honest feedback.

communication to support manufacturing
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At a Glance

  • Communication improves manufacturing
  • Feedback loops in production

Clear and consistent communication is non-negotiable in the fast-paced and highly technical engineering and manufacturing sectors. From initial production to quality control, effective communication on every level can mean the difference between a seamless operation and costly errors. One way to enhance internal communication is by tapping into the insights of frontline employees, who are the eyes and ears of the factory and can provide valuable insight that machines can't duplicate. One often overlooked but potent tool to initiate this is active listening.

Active listening is the genuine and attentive process of listening to employees. It involves creating an environment where employees feel safe to express their thoughts and concerns, and ensuring that every individual feels their voice is valued and considered. Active listening is an essential skill that significantly improves productivity, safety, and overall job satisfaction. It has evolved from demonstrating its value to being recognized as a strategic tool for shaping effective decision-making and steering business objectives. It aids in diagnosing problems and in resource allocation, program creation, and implementing actions informed by employee feedback.

In an engineering or manufacturing setting, active listening can strengthen an existing or new employee feedback program, leading to better collaboration, increased problem-solving, and a safer workplace. Unfortunately, effectively harnessing employee feedback too often gets overshadowed by high-level operational challenges like a lack of skilled labor, supply chain disruptions, and rising costs of raw materials, but that doesn't mean internal communication strategies and employee insights are less critical. In fact, one could contend that during periods of uncertainty and disruption, maintaining an active pulse of your workforce is even more critical. Internal communication is a vital driver of company success, and industry leaders are taking note.

A recent Deloitte study found that 58% of corporate affairs leaders prioritize enhancing their capabilities in data and insights. This underscores why organizations must increase their investments in communication measurement and evaluation, but to measure engagement and communication, you first need feedback portals available. So, it's best to determine what active listening techniques work best for your factory or organization and deploy them for optimal impact.

Proactivity Through Feedback Loops

The best way to avoid workplace disruptions and ensure business continuity is by implementing feedback tools for employees to share their open and honest feedback to feel heard and respected. A recent report from the Workforce Institute reveals that employees with a strong sense of belonging are more than three times as likely to feel heard in the workplace (95%) compared to those with a limited sense of belonging (25%). Regrettably, the same research indicates that most employees (88%) believe their organization doesn’t provide everyone equal opportunities to voice their opinions. Safety and operational concerns continue without the chance to share these insights safely.

Establishing open communication and feedback channels enables organizations to illuminate blind spots that only line-level employees would notice, such as workflow inefficiencies or safety concerns. This proactive approach allows employers to address issues before they escalate, promoting a safer and more efficient work environment.

The Vital Importance of Safety in Manufacturing

Safety has to be the number one focus for all companies, but its importance is magnified even further in a high-risk industry like manufacturing. As such, manufacturing workers place a high value on safety, often ranking it a top priority in their job roles. Nevertheless, there is a substantial disconnect between workers' concerns and management's responses.

One of the major obstacles to addressing safety concerns is the fear of retaliation. Workers often hesitate to voice their concerns due to fear of repercussions or being labeled troublemakers. This fear is compounded by a lack of clear communication channels, leaving workers isolated and unheard. Even critical safety issues can go unnoticed without these channels, resulting in preventable accidents and injuries.

A Proactive Approach to Increasing Retention

Another prevalent stumbling block in this sector is the tendency to reactively handle workforce problems, addressing them only once they have escalated, often leading to challenges in retaining committed employees. At the core of this predicament lies a prevailing sense of employee discontent.

Over half (56%) of factory workers intend to leave their jobs within the upcoming year, seeking a better company culture and management that listens to their staff's input. With the manufacturing sector's continued focus on retention, managers must tune in to their employees by offering feedback portals to delve deeper and better assist them. By utilizing an anonymous feedback platform, employers can proactively detect and resolve productivity-inhibiting issues while employees have a safe space to air their concerns, ultimately improving job satisfaction. Part of retaining employees also includes offering opportunities for them to advance their careers.

Upskilling and Reskilling

Career advancement is a critical component of employee growth and satisfaction. However, it is crucial to recognize that career development extends beyond job promotions. It includes comprehensive training programs for upskilling or reskilling, mentorship opportunities, further education options, and educational benefits. These factors allow employees to pursue higher education or specialized courses that can elevate their career path and save the industry as it faces a shortage of skilled workers.

While nobody can predict the future of the manufacturing industry and the workplace issues that lie ahead, team leaders possess a powerful alternative within reach: harnessing the feedback and insights of the very individuals who keep production running smoothly. By valuing and acting upon the input of frontline workers, organizations can navigate the challenges of the modern manufacturing landscape, building a brighter, safer, and more productive future.

Contributor Notes

Max Farrell is the Co-Founder and CEO of WorkHound, a company committed to giving a voice to frontline workers through a real-time, anonymous feedback platform. WorkHound empowers thousands of employees with a platform that captures anonymous feedback every week, offering real-time actionable insights and helping leadership teams to foster communication, drive company culture, and ultimately, build better workplaces.

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