Employee Engagement
4 min read

How to engage warehouse and manufacturing employees

Alexis Croswell

Senior Content Marketing Manager, Culture Amp

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Creating a comprehensive employee engagement strategy that includes corporate and warehouse staff can be challenging. Traditionally higher turnover rates among warehouse employees can sometimes make it difficult to make the case for engagement efforts. Even if you are able to invest in engagement efforts, it can be hard to find the time to take workers off the line to focus on employee feedback initiatives.

Engaging warehouse and manufacturing employees does matter, and it can affect discretionary effort and absenteeism. Here, we’ll show you how and why to engage warehouse and manufacturing employees, along with expert advice from our friends at Method.

Compensation and making warehouse employees feel valued

As lower paid, often less educated employees, manufacturing and warehouse employees can often feel disrespected and dismissed by their leaders. Efforts by leaders to make them feel valued and emphasize that they are part of the team, not disposable employees, will help with engagement and increase discretionary effort.

Leaders can forget how vulnerable these employees are to disruption in finances, for example, car troubles that they can’t afford to get fixed or take time away from the line to have fixed. Compensation becomes more important as employees move down the economic ladder because they start focusing on more survival level choices rather than luxury choices.

Financial vulnerability can set off a spiral of issues that result in higher absenteeism which could be called irresponsible by leaders who don’t understand the nature of them. Empathy for people’s hardships and challenges can go a way in making all employees feel valued.

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Measuring discretionary effort and absenteeism through surveys

According to a 2007 study out of Bowling Green University, “The larger the warehouse, the higher the employee turnover. That is to say, a lack of personal attention paid to warehouse employees may have an adverse impact on their retention. More experienced warehouse workers are less inclined to give up on their current jobs than less experienced warehouse workers, probably because the former is more accustomed to warehouse working environments than the latter.”

That said, turnover is probably not a key metric to look at in terms of warehouse employee engagement because the pay rates make for strong incentive to follow the dollars. Hourly workers generally have more reason to leave when given a higher paying option.

People working in warehouse and manufacturing roles often spend a majority of their time doing repetitive tasks. This is part of why discretionary effort and absenteeism are key indicators of engagement for warehouse and manufacturing employees.

You can add relevant questions to your next employee engagement survey to find out more. We recommend the survey questions below:

  1. [Company] motivates me to go beyond what I would in a similar role elsewhere
  2. The leaders at [Company] demonstrate that people are important to the company’s success
  3. My manager keeps me informed about what is happening
  4. I am happy with my current role relative to what was described to me
  5. I believe my total compensation (base salary+any bonuses+benefits+equity) is fair, relative to similar roles at other companies
  6. [Company] is a great place for me to make a contribution to my development

Quick Case Study: People Against Dirty Manufacturing

Kristin Perales, People and Environment Director at People Against Dirty, shares how they approach engaging a manufacturing employee base of over 100 people and how they appeal to job seekers.

At People Against Dirty Manufacturing, it’s important that we engage all employees and that we understand how they’re feeling about their work, the company and the environment in which they operate. Nonetheless, we recognize that people in different roles may have different needs or feedback. This is why using Culture Amp’s surveys to dissect our employee feedback data is really helpful.

After reviewing feedback from our operations and warehouse employees working on the plant floor, we’ve made changes to our policies so they work better for our team. We’ve also been able to supplement our decisions to make compensation and benefits changes using feedback from these surveys. We also observed how our operations and warehouse employees value their career growth and development just as much as our office team. As a result, we specifically put together content and trainings to support their needs

Culture is everything for our organization both in recruiting and retaining our employees, regardless of where they sit within the company. We want to show prospective and current operations and warehouse employees that this isn’t a typical factory job. They can have a great employee experience, contributing to our culture and organization outside of their day-to-day responsibilities. We are committed to fostering a workplace that reflects our values and supports our team to do their best both in their time at work and as they head home to be with their families.

Engaging the next generation of warehouse employees

In a 2014 research report on labor management strategies in the warehouse, 62% of survey respondents said the toughest challenge they face is finding and keeping qualified, skilled, dependable workers. There is a general concern about a lack of younger people willing and able to fill the roles of an aging warehouse workforce.

This is why understanding what engages and motivates people at work is so important. You can use that knowledge during recruitment, and throughout people’s tenure. You don’t want to hear a manufacturing employee say, “Why to all the people at HQ get all the fun/support/benefits.” Make sure all employees at your company have a voice.