Even in heavily automated fields, employees are the lifeblood of any company. Many supply chain optimization strategies focus on new technologies and workflows, but any effective measure must also consider the workforce.
One of the most important factors to address is employee engagement. Without an engaged workforce, no supply chain will operate at its full potential.
Why Is Engagement Important?
Engagement, the degree to which employees feel motivated, interested and passionate, is hard to quantify but essential to success. Studies show that highly engaged teams are 21% more profitable, exhibit 59% less turnover and 41% less absence.
Despite those benefits, many companies fail to engage their employees. As of January 2021, just 39% of U.S. workers reported being engaged at work. While that figure has risen over time, it still indicates that most employees don’t feel motivated in their workplaces.
In a field like supply chain operations, where efficiency is crucial, businesses can’t afford to overlook this data. Employers must keep supply chain workers engaged, and here are eight strategies to do so.
1. Invest in Employees’ Careers
One of the most important steps to take is to emphasize career development. Surveys show that 94% of employees will stay at their company longer if their employer invested in their career. By contrast, if workers feel like they have no opportunities for advancement in their workplace, they’ll become dissatisfied, eventually leaving.
One solution is to provide opportunities for upward mobility within the company, promoting from within. Another is to offer career development classes or training, equipping workers with new skills. Whatever path a company takes, it should emphasize and promote these opportunities.
2. Listen to Employee Feedback
Another effective strategy for increasing engagement is to listen to what employees have to say. Workers will quickly become disinterested and disillusioned if they feel that management doesn’t care about their opinions. Asking for feedback can help assuage those feelings, but it’s important to go a step further, too.
Businesses must respond to employee feedback, not just request it. If common threads emerge between workers’ suggestions or complaints, there’s likely an underlying issue that needs addressing. Management should take all feedback seriously, thanking employees for it first, then investigating it further. If meaningful change comes from this feedback, companies should highlight it.
3. Create Volunteer Opportunities
Engagement often stems from workers’ respect for the company or a feeling like they’re making a difference in their role. One way to lean into that is to coordinate volunteer opportunities for employees to give back to their communities. In a 2017 survey, 74% of employees and workers said that volunteerism improves their sense of purpose.
Management should look for opportunities to partner with local charities or organize volunteer initiatives. It’s also important to encourage participation, partly to involve more workers and partly to show enthusiasm for the project. Hosting projects like this at least once a year can help employees feel they’re part of something bigger, improving morale.
4. Host Social Events
Volunteer opportunities aren’t the only events outside of work that can boost employee engagement. Social events like parties, potlucks and trips can give workers a chance to grow closer to one another and their leaders. As employees build closer, healthier social relationships within the workplace, work will begin to feel more cooperative and engaging.
Listen to employees to gauge what types of outings and events would interest them the most. Hosting various social events throughout the year can help appeal to different workers, ensuring no one feels left out. In nearly all settings, providing food can be effective, so find people-pleasing recipes to bring.
5. Recognize Commendable Performance
One of the primary goals of boosting engagement is to get employees to perform to their full potential. If companies don’t recognize and reward exceptional performance, they can’t expect workers to strive for these goals. Conversely, if management shows their appreciation for commendable work, more workers will feel motivated to perform better.
In some circumstances, simply highlighting a job well done to other employees is enough to motivate workers. Offering tangible rewards for meeting certain performance goals may be even more effective, as it gives something concrete for employees to work toward. These rewards could be cash bonuses, extra paid time off, gift cards or anything else that workers would want.
6. Pay Attention to Worker Health
Another effective employee engagement strategy is to emphasize worker health. Employees will have an easier time engaging with their work if they feel their company cares about their wellbeing. In supply chain operations, this should include measures to prevent injury, but sponsored workout classes or fitness goals are also good ideas.
Considering one in five American adults experience a mental health issue each year, this strategy should include mental health. Businesses should emphasize the importance of looking after emotional wellness and offer related solutions. Counseling services, support groups and other measures can help assure workers their company cares about them.
7. Remove Inefficiencies and Complexity
Some factors affecting employee engagement aren’t as immediately apparent. One impactful yet relatively easy-to-fix obstacle is inefficient or overly complicated workflows. If employees have a hard time understanding what they’re supposed to do or face multiple obstacles doing it, it will be hard to remain engaged.
The solution to this issue involves two main areas of focus: training and workflow adjustments. More comprehensive, involved training can help workers understand their tasks better, removing mental roadblocks to engagement. Removing unnecessary complexity or inefficiencies in a workflow will then help employees focus on value-adding work, maintaining engagement.
8. Lead by Example
Finally, it’s important for supply chain management to embody the company spirit in their own work. Workers won’t likely exhibit much engagement if the leaders they see don’t appear motivated or passionate about their work either. By the same token, if company leaders are enthusiastic, positive and driven, it will inspire others to be the same.
Studies show that 50% of all workers have left a job at some point because of a bad manager. What constitutes a “bad” leader may vary between people, but leaders saying one thing and doing another certainly won’t help. Anyone in a leadership position in supply chains must lead by example.
Engaged Employees Are Productive Employees
Supply chains become far more efficient with engaged employees. If logistics companies can follow one or more of these eight strategies, they can engage their workforce on a deeper level. They can then maximize their human potential, mitigating workforce issues that plague the industry.
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