Happy Workers

Article sponsored by Catena Solutions

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Organizational change is always a challenge. The majority—up to 70%—of change initiatives are unsuccessful.

However, not changing isn’t an option. Business transformation remains at the forefront of organizational focus as companies navigate culture changes, digital transformation, and disruption.

The challenges around change are only going to get more difficult. As change increases, employee sentiment around change is worsening: Gartner found employees’ willingness to support enterprise change dropped to 43% in 2022 from 74% in 2016.

For food and beverage organizations, change is especially complex as companies deal with the constant evolution of people, processes, and technology in an industry that’s stringent on standardization and where mistakes can have serious consequences.

In this article we harness our team’s insight to explore how to unlock culture change in a food and beverage manufacturing environment.

Change is especially difficult in a manufacturing environment. Why?

Successful change in a manufacturing environment faces a unique set of roadblocks:

Efficiency and productivity emphasis: Manufacturing operates by strict production schedules and deadlines. Focusing on adapting to new initiatives can get in the way of the work that needs to be done, impacting performance and profitability.

Standardization: Manufacturing processes are highly standardized and have been developed over many years of honing best practices. New methods outside of common processes may be met with resistance and frustration as employees may not feel comfortable operating in unfamiliar ways.

Impact of disruption: A food and beverage manufacturing plant contains many types of machinery, technology, and people working together. One mistake has the potential to wreak havoc on an entire line—or worse, an entire plant.

Workforce challenges: Research shows 85% of businesses in manufacturing report feeling the strains of the talent gap, and 40% of manufacturing frontline workers changed jobs last year. Between skills gaps, the labor shortage, and employee retention, it can be difficult to implement changes on a shaky foundation. 

Technology resistance: Even though technology is opening the door to opportunities and creating new roles in the food and beverage industry, manufacturing workers may be hesitant to accept new technology due to the fear of losing their job or becoming obsolete.

Culture disconnect: Research shows there’s a disconnect between frontline and corporate culture: 70% of non-frontline manufacturing workers report being engaged in their role, but that number drops to 48% for frontline employees. If new initiatives are introduced by corporate leaders, frontline workers may have a preconceived negative attitude or indifference around the transformation.

For effective change, focus on these solutions.

#1: Find a plant-level leader to champion change

Because of the culture differences between frontline and corporate workers, finding a plant-level leader to be a change champion and stakeholder for an initiative will lead to better results. In fact, Prosci research shows effective sponsorship increases a project’s chance of success from 25% to 85%.

“Think about your investment day in and day out,” said Manufacturing & Supply Chain Leader David Kaissling. “If the trust isn’t there, employees will get done what they need to, but that’s about it. If trust is there and you work for people who care about you and you care about your leaders and the organization, that’s when incredible results will happen.”

#2: Be clear about the project’s purpose and benefits

One of the biggest causes of change resistance is confusion. If leaders aren’t clear about why change is necessary, what the process will be like, and its benefits, there will undoubtedly be resistance. Dissipating confusion should be priority: Research shows only 68% of senior managers understand the reasons for major change, which drops to 40% for frontline supervisors. 

“Change isn’t one size fits all,” said Catena Solutions Vice President Jennifer D’Angelo. “Leaders need to think about how the change will impact each individual on the floor in order to understand their mindset and communicate the reason and benefits in a way that resonates with them. This is where the plant-level change champion is highly critical for connecting with employees.”

#3: Understand skill sets and capabilities

Before rolling out an initiative, leadership should consider conducting a skills and capabilities assessment to understand employees’ ability to adopt change. 

“During a change, there will be some employees who don’t have the specific skill sets needed to adapt to a new way of working, especially around technology initiatives.” said D’Angelo. “This is where upskilling and reskilling is essential. Organizations may need to create a new structure, update job descriptions, and work with employees to get them where they need to be to support the initiative.”

The good news? Research shows 80% of manufacturing workers are interested in learning new skills, which is higher than the nation’s average of 70%. However, time is a major roadblock to upskilling, so organizations must allot a proper amount over the course of the project.

#4: Position technology as a career advancement opportunity

It’s no secret that new technology is increasingly prevalent in manufacturing environments. However, this can cause concern among workers who are uncertain of how technology will impact their job. 

To help workers overcome this fear, transformation leaders should be clear and highlight the ways technology will present new advancement opportunities.

“With the huge push of robotics and automation on food and beverage manufacturing floors, companies need to be aware of how it impacts employees,” said Matt Wessels, Leader of Human Capital Transformation at Catena Solutions. “In many cases, new technology requires human expertise to operate and perform correctly, which can create opportunities for workers to acquire new skillsets. However, if this is not communicated properly, technology will be met with resistance.” 

#5: Value the employee voice

As research into change management progresses, it shows just how essential involving employees in the process is. Open-source change, where employees co-create decisions, own implementation planning, and are encouraged to talk about the change, is historically more successful than top-down change.

The proof: Open-source change strategies are 14x more likely to achieve success, and the risk of change fatigue in employees drops by 29% compared to top-down change. Additionally, when employees own implementation planning for an initiative, change success increases by 24%.

“It makes a world of a difference when you engage the organization,” said Kaissling. “I’m a firm believer that through involvement comes enrollment. You can’t shove anything at people—you’ve got to engage with them and come up with solutions together. Ultimately, that’s how you ensure culture change that sticks.”

#6: Overestimate how much training is needed

Lastly, leaders should overestimate how much training the frontline will need for a change to stick. 

“Proper training is a big obstacle for food and beverage manufacturers during a change,” said Wessels. “We’re seeing companies invest in new equipment but then are unable to leverage it because the time and resources they’ve invested in employee training and adoption has been dismal, when in reality, the human element is the most important part of an initiative.”

To remedy this, organizations need to create a comprehensive training plan that spans further than the launch of the initiative. Sustained, continuous training is required to ensure employees understand their role in the change during each stage of the process and that they can ask questions and adjust along the way.

To overcome the unique challenges and solutions of enacting change in a manufacturing environment, companies may want to consider bringing in outside resources skilled in food and beverage transformation. For more information on how Catena Solutions can help your initiative, get in touch.

About Catena Solutions: Catena Solutions supports food and beverage organizations, leveraging our expertise to drive growth, optimize operations, and navigate industry challenges. With our network of industry experienced consultants, we advise and execute on client initiatives in the areas of strategy, optimization, people, and regulation. To learn more, visit https://www.catenasolutions.com/