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Retain Your Packaging Talent by Actively Listening

Real-time employee feedback is transforming manufacturing workforce dynamics, helping businesses build better workplaces and maintain direct personnel relationships.

Meaghan Ziemba

December 8, 2023

4 Min Read
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Gorodenkoff / iStock via Getty Images Plus

Here’s a new idea for helping you keep the talent you have in your packaging department: Use technology to actively solicit their input.

The US manufacturing statistic that 2.1 million manufacturing jobs could go unfilled by 2023 got a lot of attention. Manufacturers have been strategizing how to not only attract more talent through their doors but also retain the current talent they have within their facilities.

Some of the workforce challenges that businesses face include:

• High turnover rates;

• Low employee engagement;

• Disconnects between management and the workforce;

• Costly worker churn;

• Productivity pressures;

• Low job satisfaction and company morale.

Traditional methods to understand and address workforce concerns — such as annual surveys and exit interviews — often fall short of capturing manufacturing workers’ immediate concerns and emotions.

So, what if there was a way to tap into employees’ state of mind before it was too late?

WorkHound CEO and Co-Founder Max Farrell sat down with me and described the significant benefits of using technology to foster a culture of active listening and its impact on job satisfaction, productivity, and overall workforce retention in the manufacturing sector.

“Historically, people’s insights have been critical. If you think about Kaizen, for example, people are always the key to making manufacturing or any company a better version of itself,” explains Farrell. “We want to make it really easy for companies to capture that insight and do something significant with that information.”

Limitations with traditional approaches.

Annual surveys and exit interviews have been the go-to methods for addressing workforce issues. However, they come with significant limitations.

Annual surveys are often outdated by the time they’re analyzed, missing the real pulse of the workforce.

Exit interviews, while valuable, provide post-modern insights when proactive measures could have prevented an employee’s departure. By the time issues are identified through those methods, they may have already escalated.

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Farrell emphasizes the need for immediate insight: “Understanding the real-time sentiments of manufacturing workers is essential to maintaining a strong team and operation as a whole.”

With real-time feedback, businesses can make changes to enhance job satisfaction and productivity.

Addressing manufacturing challenges and solving people-problems.

There are a lot of businesses within manufacturing that need help to retain their employees. Additionally, the skills gap presses companies to ask, “How do we make the work more attractive?”

By using platforms such as WorkHound, businesses can get a glimpse of what makes specific jobs desirable and start reducing low-value, monotonous work so they can set up their employees with more high-value work that is purposeful, engaging, and challenging. 

Another challenge is the operational intelligence component. Companies with multiple locations can use technology to obtain real insights from the frontline, ensuring alignment between managerial perception and employee experience.

Companies can use real-time feedback to identify issues like safety concerns before they worsen, fostering a culture of quality work and employee pride. 

“We’re seeing an increased interest from companies [in] a better understanding of how to maintain direct working relationships with their workforce,” says Farrell. “The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) rulings that are coming in December will make it easier for unions to form inside locations, so the manufacturers I’ve talked with want to maintain a direct communication channel. These proactive measures, facilitated by real-time feedback, enable companies to stay issue-free and address any concerns before they impact relations.”

Using text messaging prompts to initiate a conversation.

Farrell and his team have found that employing a simple yet effective weekly feedback process using text messaging and the option of anonymity has initiated great conversations around various topics and themes, giving a voice to the silent majority within an organization.

“The platform’s anonymity fosters trust, encourages diverse feedback, and captures both positive and negative sentiments around things like safety, management challenges, pay concerns, and communication issues,” says Farrell.

While anonymity may raise concerns, Farrell stresses the importance of understanding that feedback will somehow find its way into the public domain, and companies can either control the message or let it spread across various platforms.

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The platform’s text-based approach ensures accessibility and high participation rates for most workers who own smartphones, eliminating the need for app downloads. It also helps identify micro-issues that lead to macro changes.

The gift of feedback.

In the words of Max Farrell, “Feedback is a gift,” and WorkHound ensures that every piece of feedback contributes to the continuous improvement of manufacturing workplaces.

By embracing a culture of active listening and continuous improvement and addressing concerns promptly, companies can foster a positive workplace environment, enhance retention rates, and navigate the complexities of an evolving workforce landscape.

As we move forward, the power of real-time insights will play a crucial role in shaping the future of manufacturing workplaces.

About the Author(s)

Meaghan Ziemba

Principal, Mavens of Manufacturing

Meaghan Ziemba, Principal, Mavens of Manufacturing

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