How to Motivate Employees Working On the Plant Floor

The typical manufacturing plant is a demanding work environment where technicians, machine operators, and other production staff are under pressure to deliver results as quickly as possible. So how to Motivate Employees working on the shop floor?

Such high-paced work environments require that everyone is fully involved and focused on the tasks at hand. But, some of the problems associated with non-motivated staff – such as working below their potential – is a constant that many plants can identify with.

There are several factors that could contribute to a lack of motivation. In busy plants, the need to deliver results quickly and meet production quotas often means that the emotional needs of workers will often take a backseat. This kind of situation repeated over and over again tends to increases the division between management and plant workers.

Again, while some workers will be passionate about their jobs, others are already disengaged and are passing time until something better comes along.

A survey by Dale Carnegie Training and MSW Research shows that only 29 per cent of employees are fully engaged, 45 per cent are only partially engaged and up to 26 per cent of non-management workers are actively disengaged. Those numbers can have a devastating effect on any business because it means a considerable proportion of workers aren’t giving their best efforts.

Below, we look at some tips for addressing the problem of how to motivate disengaged staff. The goal here is to have a team of motivated plant workers that will work together to keep even the busiest production lines running smoothly.

Sales and Operations Planning Process – Self-Assessment

How to Motivate Employees?

1) Encourage Communication and Feedback

Poor communication is an issue that busy plants often face. There are several areas in which plant managers can help the situation.

Delivering bad news

Don’t avoid telling staff information that is unpleasant. It’s better they find out from their supervisors through meetings or notices in a timely manner rather than through the “grapevine.” Also, try to accompany such news with possible solutions. This way demonstrates that management has taken them into consideration and as a result, workers will be more likely to receive the news better.

Taking Feedback Seriously

Top-down internal communication is common in manufacturing. Management can send information across to plant employees, but there is little room for communication from the plant to management.

Employee feedback is especially important in businesses with operations distributed across several locations. Consider using employee engagement apps to speed up internal communications such as 15Five, TinyPulse, Weekdone, Connecteam, etc. For example, Connecteam is designed especially for non-desk staff that don’t have a corporate email.

This empowers workers to respond to instructions, provide feedback, and suggest improvements where possible. They have valuable insights from working on the floor daily.

Many of these apps also allow for anonymous feedback so workers are free to express their ideas.

How to Motivate Employees (So That Productivity Increases)!

2) Build the Team Spirit

Bridging the gap between management and plant workers involves getting rid of some outdated mindsets especially the one where factory workers continuously think in terms of “us versus them.” In this case, “us” refers to the plant workers while “them” refers to management.

To overcome this hurdle, encourage a culture where workers buy-in on the goals and future direction of the company. Plant employees need to know that they are not merely resources or factors of production but that everyone is an important part of the team. This is one the most important elements to answer How To Motivate Employees Working On The Plant Floor.

Whatever continuous improvements the management wants to see, it is noteworthy that strong leadership and committed management support is critical for the success of any idea in an organization.

Also, the leaders need to embody and demonstrate positive change in the plant. For instance, if a critical asset breaks down and the maintenance team needs to put in overtime, instead of giving instructions and going home, a top-level manager can stay back to encourage them. This gesture, plus the knowledge that they will be properly compensated for their work, will keep the team motivated.

3) Allow Autonomy

It’s not fulfilling enough for people to report to work and take instructions like robots every day. Workers should be empowered through self-determination. This means that they have some freedom to choose how to complete tasks without constant micromanaging.

Let’s take the example of machine operators. Giving them a sense of ownership and control over the equipment that they operate daily shows that the management trusts their abilities. In turn, this encourages them to take accountability and develop a sense of pride in the assets and equipment under their care.

One tried and trusted methodology for improving operators’ involvement in machine care is Total Productive Maintenance (TPM). This is a proactive all-hand-on-deck maintenance strategy that involves everyone in equipment upkeep. All staff are responsible for the basic maintenance of the machines they operate. The benefits of adopting TPM include minimal wastage and close to zero accidents, defects, and downtime.

Visionary leadership, identity & motivation: Become a meaning maker

4) Provide a Safe and Conducive Workplace

Several studies have shown strong connections between employee morale and their feelings of safety and security in the workplace. Quoting from Gallup and other research sources, The Harvard Business Review states that employees would generally choose workplace wellbeing over material benefits. It also states that disengaged workers had 49% more accidents, and 60% more errors and defects.

To avoid these problems, constant communication about safety as well as investing in safety measures can help to send a clear message about the plant’s commitment to workers safety. This includes providing employees with:

  • Health care and insurance.
  • Prompt support with malfunctioning and potentially hazardous equipment.
  • Clear, easy to understand, and updated safety policies.
  • Adequate PPE to protect them from hazards.
  • Disaster prevention measures (e.g. fire prevention/fighting).
  • Arrangements for emergency evacuation (especially when working with volatile products).

In addition, when it comes to safety and workers’ morale, one area that requires caution is investigating and responding to safety incidents. Overreacting to incidents and punishing plant workers severely will affect their motivation because they could develop excessive fear of safety matters. This is more common with first-time offenders.

Instead of emphasizing punitive measures, understand that these risks will always exist so focus on finding out why the mistake happened and how similar incidents can be prevented.

5) Offer Rewards

Although cash bonuses are a common incentive for employees, monetary rewards should be used carefully because it may not always be economically possible to give out cash. There are several other kinds of bonuses that work just as well. Some ideas to consider include:

  • Giving the best-performing staff an extra day off or a three-day weekend.
  • Investing in additional training for outstanding workers.
  • Simple tweaks to their normal working conditions such as flexible work hours and longer breaks.
  • Verbal praise remains one of the cheapest, easiest, and fastest ways to motivate employees.

Several of the root causes of a lack of motivation are easy to identify. Most of them can be handled with consistent effort. However, it’s most likely that these problems have evolved over some time so expecting quick fixes may not be realistic.

What management can do is understand that, unlike their desk-based colleagues, plant floor employees do not have as much direct access to express their issues. Hence, they will need extra support and encouragement to feel welcome and have a sense of belonging. Doing this will help improve dialogue, employee engagement, and ultimately create a more conducive factory floor for all.

If you have any suggestions on how to motivate employees on the shop floor, please let us know!

About the Author

Bryan Christiansen is the founder and CEO at Limble CMMS. Limble is a modern, easy to use mobile CMMS software that takes the stress and chaos out of maintenance by helping managers organize, automate, and streamline their maintenance operations.


Muddassir Ahmed