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Retaining skilled physical workers remains an ongoing challenge for manufacturing companies. With rising labor competition, the tedious task of recruiting, and the constant need to incentivize employees, employers face continuous hurdles. In this blog post, we’ll overview some of the main problems, highlight a proven industry best practice, and conclude with some practical and actionable recommendations for forward-thinking HR and business leaders.
Physical workers are extremely difficult to reach through online platforms or job boards. Staffing and recruitment agencies have learned to handle the challenges of talent selection, so hiring managers and HR leaders often turn to them. However, demand is so high that candidates may receive multiple, competitive offers simultaneously. It’s not uncommon for a selected candidate to change their mind at the last minute and choose another company instead. Whether consciously or intuitively, employer brand and word-of-mouth opinions significantly influence candidates’ decisions between options. This relates to the concept of Employer Branding and carries great importance for a company’s competitiveness in attracting talent.
Building a Strong Employer Brand
The essence of employer brand is strengthening employees’ affiliation to the company by attributing certain values to the brand that are important and beneficial to them. By paying attention to employees’ needs and requests, encouraging open dialogues up and down the organizational hierarchy, companies can build an extremely strong culture and brand value for themselves.
“There is often a request from employees to be rewarded based on performance and productivity.”
Physical workers know amongst themselves who “pulls more weight”, who the go-to experts are, who always drags behind and relies on others versus those who take initiative and get the job done because it’s important to them.
The industry is performance-driven. One of the most important expectations for employers is appropriate quality and efficiency of work. Progressive leaders recognize that a supportive work environment and cohesive team can do a lot to retain blue-collar employees and further motivate their productivity.
Emerging Workforce Attitudes
Flexible scheduling is a common request among workers so they can attend to personal matters like bureaucratic errands or doctor appointments outside of work hours. Here is an example of a flexible attendance policy implemented by a US-based logistics company (Source: https://marinakrakovsky.com/531-2/) to accommodate their blue-collar employees’ needs:
After recognizing the common tardiness and absenteeism amongst workers, HR introduced 30-minute signed exits for employees to take care of health and personal matters, on top of their vacation days! The policy became popular, helped workers better reconcile personal activities with their schedules, and enabled HR to better plan labor availability.
Likewise, visibility into career progression and advancement opportunities within the company is important to employees. Quantifying soft skills and their impact on team productivity is extremely difficult yet highly influential.
“If there is a way to numerically evaluate soft skills in addition to hard skills, it becomes easier for managers to assign jobs and develop physical workers/blue-collar employees.”
Whether white or blue-collar, all employees appreciate personal recognition for a job well done, whether it’s a simple verbal acknowledgement or improving tangible working conditions – for example, moving one to a less noisy station. Individual and performance-based incentives are a defining element of effective retention, even for manual laborers.
A good example
Pikopack – Where Employees Are Heard
In an informal discussion with Pikopack Zrt., a manufacturing company based in Füzesabony, Hungary, we encountered an HR department with conscious best practices worth highlighting for inspiration. 40% of Pikopack’s workforce has been with the company for 10+ years, and their remarkable employee loyalty cannot be credited to wages alone.
Pikopack’s strength lies in its great workplace culture and management’s approachability. The CEO personally meets with workers, communicates with them, asks about their tasks, challenges, and well-being. When HR collects feedback on what employees value most, they often emphasize the extremely tolerant and professionally credible shift manager who makes “work a joy”.
Here’s an excellent example of facilitating employee dialogue: HR leader Gabriella Zbiskó involves workers even in important decisions like which country to recruit migrant laborers from. Though several options were proposed, employees ended up voting for newcomers from Kyrgyzstan.
“Surveys show that salary is the most important factor in employee satisfaction. In practice, we see that people-centric leadership can do the most to retain talent.”
Create a Supportive Workplace
Motivive’s Employee Engagement Platform builds employee motivation, measures performance and provides an opportunity to offer personalized rewards.
Through the platform, employees – including blue-collar – enter a gamified experience with creatively framed narratives and objectives representing management expectations and personal goals. Game psychology inherently motivates people to overperform. Completing missions earns digital rewards that workers can redeem for gifts of their choice, within a budget. While one may prefer a wellness weekend, another may want a new bicycle for their son.
Motivive complements rather than replaces personal recognition from the boss. It facilitates a culture where coworkers collaborate and positively reinforce each other.
See how Motivive solutions support employee engagement and retention.
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