It’s an understatement to say a lot has happened during the last couple of months. While facing uncertainty and disruption, the manufacturing industry, resilient as always, is finding ways to keep the industrial wheels turning. Albeit a little slower than they used to, in many cases. All this change does not come without implications for the essential manufacturing workforce, which has experienced major shifts in how they work: 

  • Some have transitioned to every other day shift rotations to minimize time spent in the plant 
  • Many are still showing up every day with enhanced safety precautions such as intraday temperature taking and physical barriers between workstations 
  • In a few rare cases, manufacturers are even sending employees home with materials and equipment to continue production at home 
With the current situation continuing to evolve, it’s critical that manufacturers remain focused on keeping employees informed, engaged, and safe to protect both the physical and mental well-being of their most valued resource - the workforce. 

Here are three actions manufacturers can take now to do so:  

1. Overcommunicate 

Communication is key. Your employees deserve to know what is going on with the business currently and where it’s headed. As an example, Aron Ain, Kronos and Ultimate Software CEO, makes it a point to provide weekly video updates from his home office informing employees on the decisions being made by leadership and the current state of the business. These short video clips require minimal effort, but leave a lasting impact on the workforce.  

Understandably, it’s not always easy to maintain regular and consistent communication with front-line manufacturing employees, but technology is here to help. Modern workforce management technologies enable two-way communication between employees and managers, allowing leadership to easily share companywide announcements and receive direct input from employees which provides insight on how employees are truly feeling. Being transparent with your communication will help to build confidence and ease any angst your employees may be feeling about any unknown and operational changes as this situation continues to evolve.  

2. Keep Your People Safe 

While safety is always critical in the manufacturing industry, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become paramount to success. With the virus placing an enormous amount of stress on both the workforce and the business, manufacturers need to take quick action. Fortunately, there are ways to keep your employees both working and protected.  

Many studies have shown that contact tracing is one of the best ways to quickly curb the spread of illness within locations. By coupling labor data with contact tracing capabilities, manufacturing organizations can receive reports alerting them to which employees within their plants may have come into contact with a coworker who tested positive for the virus.

Other ways to protect employees and keep them safe include: 

  • Updating training procedures to incorporate new COVID-19 recommendations, and automating the administration of training courses 
  • Querying employees about health and safety issues they are experiencing within the work environment, and addressing these concerns 
  • Allowing employees to punch in/out via mobile device to limit exposure to germs from the time clock 

3. Trust Them (Again and Again) 

The reality is, without a culture of trust, the first two actions just discussed, become less effective. If there is no mutual trust between employees and leadership, the workforce won’t believe the communications being shared and they may question whether actions are truly about protecting them, or just protecting the business from compliance issues. 

When you are able to create a culture of trust and transparency, you can expect higher employee engagement, which leads to increased productivity, fewer safety incidents, and an overall happier workforce.

There are a few important things to remember about trust and how to help build it: 

  • It isn’t a one-way street – if you don’t trust your employees, how do you expect them to trust you? 
  • Don’t constantly monitor your employees in their new working environment, trust that they are continuing to work diligently  
  • Take time out of the workday to informally connect with employees to help build camaraderie, which leads to trust 

To learn more about building a culture of trust, Kronos and Ultimate Software CEO, Aron Ain shares some of his insights in chapter 3 of his book WorkInspired

Placing an enhanced focus on these three areas will help demonstrate to your workforce that you are committed to protecting their health and well-being through even the most difficult of times.  


Click here for more ideas on how to foster a safe and positive working environment for your manufacturing workforce 

Published: Friday, May 22, 2020