Facing a host of economic and labor challenges, manufacturers are sharpening their focus on frontline workers as a way to differentiate and propel their organizations forward. That’s according to recent research from consultancy PwC and the Manufacturing Institute, the workforce and development arm of the National Association of Manufacturers.
The groups surveyed more than 100 human resources professionals and operations leaders in manufacturing during the third quarter of this year; their goal was to learn more about frontline workers’ workplace needs and preferences, how they have changed, and what their organizations are doing to help improve those workers’ overall work experience. The groups define a frontline worker as an hourly, skilled employee who plays a direct role in production, including jobs in the warehouse, fabrication, assembly, logistics, maintenance, and quality operations.
Nearly half of those surveyed (48%) said their companies have an average or below average approach to creating a positive experience for frontline workers, which includes making the workplace more satisfying and meaningful in ways that go beyond providing a good salary, according to the research.
“Given the challenges that many manufacturers face in their efforts to attract and retain talent, business leaders in the sector can look at the overall employee experience to help close their workforce gaps, particularly for frontline employees,” according to the research. “Enhancing the employee experience can take many forms, including the offering of increased flexible scheduling, providing broader and more competitive benefits and total rewards, helping enhance the sense of belonging at work, cultivating a more inclusive culture, and offering a clear-cut path toward career advancement. In other words, there can be an opportunity for employers to strengthen their recruitment and retention efforts by improving the frontline worker experience.”
The issue will be front and center for manufacturing organizations in the year ahead, as the survey also found that most manufacturers expect to add to their frontline workforce over the next year, and that many will focus on creating a more engaging workplace in order to attract talent. Key survey findings include:
62% of manufacturers said they expect their frontline workforce to increase over the next year.
More than one-third of manufacturers (36%) said they experienced frontline employee attrition rates exceeding 10% over the past six months.
Only half (48%) of manufacturing leaders said that most of their frontline workers feel they are engaged in their job.
Just 58% of manufacturers said they periodically survey their frontline workers about their opinions surrounding employment engagement and culture.
Manufacturing leaders said “impactful factors” in creating more meaning for frontline workers include instilling purpose (86%), recognition (78%), and fostering personal growth (68%).
More than 70% of manufacturers said they either struggle with or could improve their mentoring programs for frontline workers.
Half of manufacturing respondents in the survey said they offer their frontline workers dynamic scheduling solutions (the ability to bid on and swap shifts for scheduling flexibility).