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Your Strategies

A Leader’s Guide to Manufacturing 4.0

The full report A Leader’s Guide to Manufacturing 4.0 contains 4 strategies, 20 actionable steps, supportive examples, global insights, and more to support businesses in the manufacturing industry to thrive in the new Manufacturing 4.0 era where transformation is the key to success.

STRATEGY #2: Make engagement your primary agent of change

Next-generation businesses will be as invested in their employee engagement strategies as in their operational strategies. At the core of a top-notch, lean manufacturing strategy is a culture of lean—an environment with an engagement mindset that ensures lean is sustained beyond the launch of tools and technology. What best-in-class manufacturers have demonstrated so successfully is taking organizational goals and making them part of their cultural DNA via employee engagement.

Engagement is the lynchpin to customer connectivity

Employee engagement is the emotional commitment employees have to the organization and its goals. It is the energy that fuels your people engine and is critical to redirecting your product-only focus. Yes, the product is ultimately paramount, but for your product to add value and provide the desired customer experience, your workforce must be emotionally committed to what it does. Every day, they must engage their minds as much, or more so, as their hands. They are the machine behind the machine.

Engagement is also about ownership—being accountable, responsible, and invested in a role. Two key things drive ownership: voice and choice. Your employees need to have a voice in their work and your organization and the ability to choose how that work gets done. If you want them to engage with your customers, move them from mere order-takers to value-deliverers.

For senior leaders to operationalize employee engagement and initiate transformation, they’ll need to do more than merely invest in an engagement survey. They’ll need to “move”—not just measure—by building engagement skills. If not, and they fail to consider the engagement of their teams in favor of operations, you’re likely to experience high turnover, low levels of initiative, missed targets, and heavy-handed customer scrutiny.

One step to build employee engagement and power up your transformation is to monitor gaps in engagement. 

Make it a point to observe and listen to the engagement experience in your area. How interested are employees in their work or the needs of your customers? Are they taking initiative or are they just “putting time in” on the job? Below are a set of example behaviors you may see or hear about the employee engagement experience that indicate whether you have engagement issues.

At your own site, which of these do you see or hear?

  • Slowing the line down or “rate busting”
  • No sense of urgency when a piece of equipment is down
  • Workers who don’t make eye contact when you or visitors walk by their workstations
  • Excessive absenteeism
  • Tardiness
  • Excessive turnover
  • Little or no participation in continuous improvement meetings or programs
  • Leaders spending time with HR to resolve conflicts on the line
  • Workers who stop working or slack off if they have made their goal for the day
  • Little communication at shift change
  • Workers don’t understand how their errors affect the line downstream
  • Workers don’t understand the whole process on the line
  • Repeated missed targets with no effort to catch up
  • Unclean work areas
  • Complaints about supervisor communications, trust, and/or how conflicts are resolved

Ask questions about the engaging experiences valued by your teams. Do they value shared responsibility, more interaction with customers, and/or additional education about technology? What is it about their work that they enjoy and want to do more of or learn more about?

Consider where the team is in its level of engagement and where you want it to be. Based on the information you have gathered, how engaged are your employees now? How engaged should they be in order to achieve your transformation with the speed and results you expect? The engagement continuum provides a way for you to plot where you think the workforce is now versus where you think it needs to be. Understanding the gap will tell you a lot about what you need to do as a leader to drive employee engagement, and how far and how fast you need to go.

The engagement continuum: How far, how fast?

how engaged are your employees now?

A Leader’s Guide to Manufacturing 4.0
A Leader’s Guide to Manufacturing 4.0
Four talent strategies to transform your organization for the future.


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