With technological advancements the importance of maintaining staff morale for production line workers is a priority that organizations should focus on.
Production line work is arguably one of the most physically taxing jobs. Although technology and automation have made it easier, the importance maintaining staff morale in this sector is more important than ever. In fact, the nature of these jobs make it essential for managers to keep their people happy.
An article in The Washington Post provides a compelling description of life in the production industry. It chronicles the work of Chris Young – a factory employee who mentions long commutes, irregular hours, difficulty handling childcare and dismal pay. But perhaps the most compelling sign of poor engagement is when he explains management’s lack of interest in his (and others’) welfare: “No one’s really worried about the fact that you’re so exhausted from working seven days a week, you’re dependent on some drug to stay awake, or dependent on some drug to [fall] asleep, or for pain…”
Job challenges aside, it would be shocking for management to expect morale to be high in such an environment. Young’s employer is the very antithesis of an employer who understands or values engagement; however, not every organization wants to follow this example. With the right approach, this industry can create a work environment conducive to strong, consistent engagement.
Start at the Bottom
In the 1957 film, 12 Angry Men, Juror # 6 says “Well, I’m not used to supposin’. I’m just a workin’ man. My boss does all the supposin’.”
While this movie has nothing to do with engagement, the line is quite revealing of how companies were once (and in some cases still are) managed. Essentially, the character illustrates how it’s not his job to think or make decisions; that’s his boss’ responsibility.
Today, it’s important to shed the “top-down” approach if we even want to begin addressing morale and engagement in the production industry. This doesn’t mean that junior staff should be given complete control, but it also doesn’t imply that they should have no voice. If management wants to find and address issues with engagement and morale on the production floor, they need to remain in touch with their workers.
Fortunately, the solution is quite simple. In the words of Kristin Kelley from The Business Journals: “Leaders and managers should collaborate with employees to identify engagement barriers, rather than leave it solely to the top executives to figure out.”
Within the context of production line work, this means that supervisors should be a constant presence – not solely for monitoring, but as a point of contact for employee concerns. They need to be proactive about checking on employee wellness, tracking safety, being friendly and consistently available to address concerns or areas of improvement.