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4 Ways to Rethink Employee Experiences in Manufacturing

The modern workforce is evolving and unavoidably, creating great change in workplace culture. As companies strive to keep up with the changes, there are 4 things every leader should know and take into consideration when working towards improving culture:

1. Everyday experiences matter.
2. Companies want to improve their employee experience, but too often focus on developing programs that target milestones, such as getting promoted, etc., rather than the entire employee lifecycle.
3. Most employee experiences are “top-down” and generic, offering very little value.
4. 9 times out of 10, employee experiences, and the general company culture, is not meaningful to the employee.

The employee experience is the everyday experience which means all of the conversations, the interactions, the things employees see every day, contribute to the overall employee experience.

“But why does this matter?”

“Why does the experience matter when the employee is being paid to do a job, not have positive experiences?” 

Think of it this way – if an employee has a negative conversation with a coworker, sees trash in the parking lot, the computer doesn’t work when they turn it on Monday morning, or they don’t have a single conversation with their manager for a week, effectively leaving them in the dark, all of these things contribute to negative employee experience.

When those experiences are routinely negative, the employee’s morale is greatly affected, which in turn, affects the job they are doing on a daily basis. So, you may be paying your employee to do a job, but if they’re experiencing adverse situations regularly, they won’t be doing the job well. 

On the contrary, when employees are consistently having great 1 on 1 meetings with management, colleagues are making friendly conversation, or positive affirmations are given about the work an employee is doing, it all contributes to a positive experience. 

When employees have great everyday experiences, they feel more positive about other areas of the company, not only to include their job but the culture of the company and the leadership of the said company. The positive experiences make employees feel appreciated, connect them to a greater purpose, provide a sense of opportunity that leads to success, create a higher sense of well-being, establish more positive feelings towards leadership, and builds more engagement.

When an employee experiences those feelings of positivity, they’re more likely to do great work, innovate, and create a positive experience for customers, if they’re customer-facing.

At the end of the day, when you create a positive employee experience, you make employees more productive.

This is why employee engagement in manufacturing (and any other industry) is important. 

Improve Company Culture Through Employee Engagement

Understanding company culture is so much more important than it used to be, and now more than ever, leadership teams need to work on improving employee engagement. But how?

First things first, it would be a mistake to think to create a positive employee experience and culture is through a program and just letting it exist. Like we said above, you must think of the employee experience as an everyday experience that must be continuously measured and improved.

To begin, improve the aspects of culture that impact people’s daily lives starting with the interactions between team members and leaders. It’s important for employees to feel appreciated and valued.

When you’ve done that, there are 4 more things every good leader needs to remember when improving company culture through employee experience and engagement.

1. The impact of peak employee experiences lasts longer than the valley of negative experiences.
2. Employee burnout affects all types of organizations, regardless of industry or size.
3. Traditional leadership styles need to evolve to match the modern workforce.
4. Great culture supports its employees in every way.

The impact of peak employee experiences lasts longer than the valley of negative experiences.

In the past, companies would typically focus on the negative experiences and work on fixing those instead of trying to establish a culture that would create more positive experiences.

By not creating more of those “peak” experiences, you’re inhibiting the culture from growing to benefit the company.

How can you create positive experiences that leave a lasting impact on the employee? 

Employee burnout affects all types of organizations, regardless of industry or size.

The concept of employee burnout was once reserved for healthcare workers and first responders. Because of their demanding jobs that required too many hours, and too much emotional toll, these 2 groups of people were though to experience chronic workplace stress that led to burnout. That wasn’t wrong.

But what has changed is that employee burnout has been expanded to include virtually every industry, of any size. Employee burnout is not limited to one type of worker or industry. Physical and emotional stress, of any kind, can cause employees to burn out and perform poorly.

It’s possible to overextend your employees which leads to negative employee experience, and eventually, a detrimental culture.

Traditional leadership styles need to evolve to match the modern workforce.

There is a disconnect between traditional leadership styles and ones that are more forward-thinking, and now, companies and leadership teams need to be able to pivot to meet the needs of the modern workforce.

This is significant and needs to be paid attention to.

Today’s workforce is much more highly diverse – in digital, agile, and innovative ways. Employees aren’t working the typical 9-5 roles (albeit not to include the necessary shift scheduling in manufacturing). Even in today’s tumultuous environment, employees are finding workplace integration while working remotely, finding the synergy to effectively work from home.

This is an indication of the changing workforce. One that demands the ability to work from anywhere, at any time, and from any device. Employees expect more autonomy and flexibility in their roles, and if leadership can’t deliver that, those experiences will become negative.

But the traditional hierarchical leadership does not support these changes effectively. Leadership teams aren’t used to working in this way – rules, processes, and demands, originally created during the Industrial Revolution, no longer apply.

That needs to change to create positive employee engagement.

Great culture supports its employees in every way.

A company culture that supports its employees is focused on transparency, openness, inclusivity, and diversity, helping to further shape the modern workplace.

Workplace culture should be a place that gives employees the ability to speak up, take risks, and be their authentic selves, not one that causes employees to be fearful of their jobs every day.

Essentially, this begins with the role of the company’s leaders. Their role is to create a culture that fosters transparency and openness, a secure place for employees to flourish.

There are many who look at the traditional structure of the workplace and question why it needs to be changed. In the traditional sense, employees should be there to work, not have fun. But this is the wrong way to look at it.

By creating a supportive, transparent, inclusive culture, you’re telling employees they can contribute. They can truly be a part of the company, no matter what.

Leading by transparency not only helps employees, but gives leaders the ability to transform, adapt, and guide their teams. Leaders should know each role and how each person works. When that is known, it gives the opportunity for the employee’s goals to compliment the goals of the company, in a way that benefits everyone.

Think of it in this way, if a psychologically safe environment is created, employees will contribute more, feel empowered, and have a sense of belonging.

For those who wholeheartedly believe in the traditional mindset of task-oriented leadership and leading by fear, you’re missing out on a more inclusive, less siloed, peer to peer culture.

Positive Employee Experiences Even Contribute to the Bottom Line

Employees are no longer looking for just a paycheck and clocking out at the exact same time, every day. Instead, they’re looking for the work-life balance that gives them fulfillment in all aspects of their lives – work and personal. Whereas before, employees would just come in and leave, now they expect to contribute their best efforts to a role that gives them fulfillment in return.

In the traditional sense, managerial styles of the old don’t merge with this new way of thinking, and that’s okay. Eliminating rigid expectations and requirements will impact the company not only in terms of a more positive culture but even the bottom line.

A great leader of today doesn’t micromanage their people. Instead, they inspire and influence them to do great work. They enable employees to accomplish great tasks and connect them with purpose. This is what creates positive employee experiences and an even more positive company culture.

“How is this done?”

One example of this type of leadership is the importance of training leaders to be mentors and coaches, giving employees the chance to have 1:1 meetings with higher-ups, creating meaningful modes of connectedness.

15-20 years ago, it was unheard of for leaders to routinely schedule these types of conversations – employees would automatically something was wrong. Now, it creates a sense of connectivity that promotes great communication between all levels of the organization.

While only 1 example, the changes that can be made are endless. The environment has changed – and for the better.

Set Your Organization up for Success: Connect Everything from Software to Culture

As we said above, training employees to fall into the role of mentors or coaches rather than the traditional managerial or boss role is key. But, there is so much more companies can do – don’t stop there. Keep learning, keep researching, keep doing better. With these changes, you’ll be setting your organization up for success.

As the former CEO of a large manufacturing facility, I tried to incorporate these principles into my own organization, and it really made a big difference. No matter the role, my employees were given an open forum to discuss any thought or concern with me. It created more meaningful communication for everyone involved, myself included. In the end, the everyday employee experience was improved and employees were happier.

Try it out for yourself. Learn from my experiences and see the difference it makes in your organization.

When you can do this, you’ll create an inclusive culture that fosters positive employee experiences. The idea is to bring people together to have the same goals, around the same metrics, and win the day.

At Mingo, we achieve this by connecting manufacturers to their cultures through software. Everyone is given the opportunity to take risks or speak up because employees are included in the process of analyzing data and using that data to make data-driven decisions.

It’s our goal to connect the plant from the floor to the operator. When you do that, your entire organization will benefit, even the bottom line.

Bryan Sapot
Bryan Sapot
Bryan Sapot is a lifelong entrepreneur, speaker, CEO, and founder of Mingo. With more than 24 years of experience in manufacturing technology, Bryan is known for his deep manufacturing industry insights. Throughout his career, he’s built products and started companies that leveraged technology to solve problems to make the lives of manufacturers easier. Follow Bryan on LinkedIn here.