Workplace culture concept. Silhouettes drawn on sheets.

By Todd Pernicek, Insights Analyst at Quantum Workplace

Workplace culture is a popular topic right now. There’s a reason of course. Top workplaces are focusing on culture and the employee experience to combat turnover and recruit in a competitive job market. The problem is many leaders are struggling to grasp what workplace culture is. It’s difficult to move the needle without knowing what it is.

How your organization gets work done and how your employees experience the day-to-day is your organization’s culture. According to Quantum Workplace research, employees feel workplace culture the strongest through: 

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  • the mission and values statement
  • recognition and celebrations
  • approach to employee performance 

The physical workspace, onboarding and training, and rituals and norms ranked at the bottom for where employees feel workplace culture.

If you think culture is just an HR initiative, think again. The Manufacturing Leadership Council has identified culture as a critical area of focus on the path to Manufacturing 4.0. To adapt, food manufacturing organizations will need to create a culture of engagement, innovation, and collaboration to be competitive in the marketplace and vie for what has become a precious resource: employees.

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Deloitte research estimates 2.3 million manufacturing jobs could go unfilled by 2030. Being intentional about workplace culture isn’t just a quick fix for today’s hiring frenzy. It’s a long-term strategy to prepare for the future of food manufacturing. 

How do you build a winning culture? Through trust in leadership, engagement, and performance.

Building trust

You can’t build a workplace culture that doesn’t include trust. It’s hard for employees to feel valued if they don’t know what is going on in their organization and they don’t understand the reasons behind decisions. Quantum Workplace research shows only 65% of employees in manufacturing understand the “why” behind organizational changes.

Manufacturing leaders need to clearly communicate changes with their teams and provide explanations for the changes. Employees want to learn why things are happening. This helps them understand the purpose behind changes instead of filling in the gaps themselves with false information, and it makes workers feel more connected and valued. 

Transparency is crucial. Communication lines should always be open. Conversations, even if unpleasant, construct relationships that build on the human part of the organization. At the end of the day, everyone is trying to do their best on behalf of the organization and wants to be appreciated for doing a good job. This level of transparency drives performance because workers are focused on the right goals and outcomes.

Author Stephen M. R. Covey writes in The Speed of Trust that relationships between leadership and employees must be built on trust to get work done. Believing each employee has good intentions and valuable insights makes them trust you to make good decisions that benefit them. It’s even better if you can include employees in part of the decision-making process.

Engaging employees

You may have heard the phrase, “it’s a buyer’s market.” In the working world, it’s an employee’s market. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports quit rates are at an all-time high.  If an employee doesn’t feel happy in their job or at the organization, they already have a foot out the door because many organizations are hiring. Quantum Workplace research shows 28% of manufacturing workers are considered a retention risk due to unclear change communication, limited growth and development opportunities, and a lack of recognition.

When workers are connected to their work and the organization, they’re less likely to want to leave. What can you do to engage your workforce? 

1. Just ask

You can’t fix an issue if you don’t know what the issue is. Employees have in-depth knowledge about what is working and what barriers they have to get the job done. Their input can help improve machine processes, floor operations, and other business outcomes. Creating a culture of feedback shows employees their perspectives matter. It also gets information to leadership for employee-centric decision-making and leads to more engaged employees. Think of engagement as one more measurement food manufacturers should track.

2. Analyze what’s going on

Connect what employees are saying to other metrics you’re already tracking: 

  • Turnover
  • Productivity
  • Absences
  • Safety incidents
  • Scrap/shrink
  • Efficiency
  • On-time delivery
  • Machine downtime
  • Repair tickets

Discover differences in perceptions across demographics like age, gender, tenure, and role type. Determine if specific teams or locations are showing declines or improvements. This uncovers obstacles connected to business goals that you may not have considered.

3. Act on fixing problems

Asking is good, understanding is better, solving issues is best. Acting on concerns you discover in employee feedback shows employees you value their thoughts and ideas and are willing to make positive changes.

As you work to improve the employee experience through employee feedback, leverage what you’ve learned through listening to boost performance.

Evolving performance

You know performance is critical to the success of the organization. In food manufacturing organizations, routine tasks can cause employees to lose motivation or even burn out. Add being short-staffed to that and turnover and safety concerns start to creep in. If the goal is 90% high-performing employees, you’ll need to revamp your performance management strategy with trust and engagement in mind.  

Research has shown that 54% of mid-market manufacturers indicate talent management is a challenge. It’s important to remember that you can’t have great employee performance without highly engaged employees.

Engaged employees bring innovative ideas and a desire for growth. Investing in growth and development lets employees see they have the support to learn new skills and transition into new roles, making them more likely to stay at your organization. Ongoing growth opportunities, whether it’s skills training or mentorship, shows employees that they can have not just a job, but a career.

Creating growth opportunities for employees aligns with Manufacturing 4.0 goals of using transformative technologies, building resilient supply chains, and upskilling the future workforce. Aligning employee and organizational goals further connects employees to the organization and team.

Recognition is a key driver of an engaging approach to performance management. It can be difficult in the flow of work to recognize great work. But recognition doesn’t have to be a huge event. Simply pulling an employee aside and thanking them for their efforts goes a long way and will spread to employees recognizing each other.

Many of these concepts are easy to begin immediately. Even if they’re not part of your current culture, they’ll need to be to meet goals and future expectations. Building a workplace culture upon trust, engagement, and continuous performance improvement will give your organization the platform it needs for employee and business success and Manufacturing 4.0.

As an Insights Analyst at Quantum Workplace, Todd coaches organizational leaders on engagement and performance solutions, paired with best practices to help managers drive employee engagement. He’s passionate about fostering good in organizations through data, storytelling, and utilizing existing potential within the organization that provides realistic solutions to drive business and employee success.