How do your employees feel about your company? Do they understand their individual contribution to the bottom line? Are they proud of the job they do?

manufacturing worker

If not, you might want to consider ways to educate your employees on the bigger picture to help them see exactly where they fit in. The benefits to both employee engagement and your bottom line could be tremendous.

Let’s say you have an employee named Joe who gets up every morning and goes to work. He stocks the shelves or loads the trucks or fills his place on the assembly line.

How does Joe feel about his job? Does he consider himself an integral part of your company? Do you know? Do you want to know?

Manufacturing jobs have the lowest level of employee engagement of any field. Only one fourth of manufacturing employees are described as “engaged,” meaning they “work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company,” according to studies by the Gallup organization.

Another one quarter of manufacturing employees are “actively disengaged,” don’t care about their employers and may even be antagonistic toward them.

So, chances are three to one that Joe doesn’t really feel connected to your company.

Conversations in his head might sound something like this: “What I do here isn’t really important.” “Why should I work so hard?” “So what if I take a longer break than I’m supposed to? What difference does it make?”

And, “All this rah-rah company stuff – just give me my paycheck and let me get out of here on time.”

This kind of apathy costs the company money. From unwarranted sick leave to longer breaks to inefficient work habits, profits seep out through apathetic, unengaged employees.

Do your employees understand how your company makes money? Do they know how their particular tasks fit into the big picture? Do they make decisions with the good of the company in mind?

It is essential that management help employees to understand exactly where they fit in, and how their jobs impact the company. Those two points alone can go a long way toward combating apathy.

If it is described to Joe how important his individual stage in the process is to the final result – and that without his expertise and contribution the bottom line will suffer – Joe very well may develop an entirely different outlook on his job.

It is critical that short-term employee performance goals be consistent with longer-term company profitability goals. Otherwise, employees will find themselves in a dilemma over which goal to satisfy.

Take, for example, a furniture manufacturing plant. Employees on the packing line are graded on their ability to keep the line moving and package a certain number of pieces of furniture each shift.

When the assembly line is moving too fast for the varnish to dry appropriately, there is no incentive for employees to slow down to give the furniture time to dry. The more they package, the better their rating for the day, so they keep moving, packing sticky furniture that is sure to be returned later because the packing has stuck to the wood.

Over the long term, this costs the company a lot of money. Yet, in the short term, the employees have done exactly what they were told to do – keep the line moving and get that furniture packaged.

If these line employees understood how their jobs impacted the bigger picture, and they were compensated or given bonuses based on the ultimate success of the job, they would make better decisions. The company would save significant money, and the employees would feel their jobs are important.

Many business owners hesitate to broach the topic of how the company makes or loses money for fear that employees will react by wanting more from the company or, at the other end, be concerned about the stability of their jobs.

Giving employees this type of communication can be a cultural shift for some companies. If it is shared, it is important to initiate a performance-based compensation or bonus system that rewards good decisions. Such a system reinforces the benefits to both company and employee, increasing the chances that good decisions will continue to be made.