July 12, 2018

Leveraging New Technology to Boost Engagement

by Guest Blogger

Here’s one of my favorite definitions of “employee engagement” that I’ve come across, courtesy of a 2013 piece in the Harvard Business Review:

While people define engagement in various ways, I prefer a plain and simple definition: People want to come to work, understand their jobs, and know how their work contributes to the success of the organization.

As we in the manufacturing industry work through a labor shortage, employee engagement is something to pay attention to.

The statistics don’t lie; from the same Harvard Business Review piece, highly engaged organizations have greater success than lower engaged organizations. “Top-quartile firms have lower absenteeism and turnover… Engagement also improves quality of work and health. For example, higher scoring business units report 48% fewer safety incidents; 41% fewer safety incidents; and 41% fewer quality incidents (defects).”

There are a lot of theories out there on how to boost employee engagement. We’ve written about some of them here on In Focus in the past, but this week I want to focus on one that might at first seem counterintuitive: Automation.

Some conventional thinking tends to assume that workers view automation as a threat to their jobs. But we’ve increasingly learned that this isn’t the case. A recent article in CIO magazine notes: “While some fear that automation will eliminate jobs, the consequences of automation are counter-intuitive: automation actually removes the tedious parts of work and frees up often stretched-thin employees for more meaningful and creative work. When employees spend more time on the interesting and rewarding aspects of their jobs, productivity and satisfaction rise and—by extension—so does employee retention.”

We’ve seen that at play in the fenestration industry. As Larry Johnson wrote in a recent post here on In Focus: “American manufacturers struggling with retention and turnover invested in the new equipment to maintain and boost production rates, and they have been able to allocate their best employees to high-value tasks on the plant floor.” Organizations having the most success with automated IG lines have paid close attention to the “human element.”

For instance, it’s critically important to involve your workforce in the introduction and implementation of new automation. Make everyone a part of the process. Clearly communicate what to expect, explain the benefits, and make sure to conduct thorough training. When the whole team is invested, it can have huge benefits for your culture throughout the organization.

From there, workers see and feel the benefits. Imagine, instead of continuously working to move large panels of glass down the IG line, your best employees can focus on finding new manufacturing efficiencies you might not have thought of, because automation is taking care of the heavy lifting. There are similar areas of opportunity all over the shop floor. The elimination of repetitive, ergonomically taxing tasks on the plant floor can help reduce the risk of injury, and boost engagement and worker satisfaction overall.

Questions or comments? Contact me directly at John.Ryba@Quanex.com.
 

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Posted: July 12, 2018 by Guest Blogger Filed under: automation