Take your manufacturing team engagement to a new level
By Ron HarperGeneral Operations Technology Electronics
The challenges of engagement and communication increased in the early days of the pandemic, as information was coming at people from all directions.
Cogent Power Inc. has implemented a new employee communications platform, called Blink, which is helping communications of teams and increasing active engagement.
A challenge with any business is to create a high level of engagement and alignment with their people and work teams. Gallup, an advisor on engagement, found out the following results in its reports:
• 41 per cent reduction in absenteeism
• 17 per cent increase in productivity
• 24 per cent less turnover in high-turnover organizations
• 10 per cent in customer ratings
• 20 per cent increase in sales
• 21 per cent greater profitability
This is a pretty strong case for an investment in employee engagement. With that being said, Gallup regularly reports that manufacturing team engagement averages are below 30 per cent.
Maintaining a high level of actively engaged members of a team is important. The goal is to achieve this active engagement, where people are passionate about their work, with clear alignment with the goals and mission of the company. This creates the greatest organizational results, and the best chance to thrive and create feelings of success and fulfillment.
Many manufacturers and service companies operate on an expanded work schedule. Cogent operations teams work on a 24/7, 12-hour work schedule. This makes connection, engagement and alignment very difficult, as leadership and staff work on a different schedule and rhythm. During any month, members of the operating teams will work less than one-third of the time, side by side on the same schedule, as well as the staff and their senior leaders. Despite all the advances in communications technology, many manufacturing and service companies have almost no direct channel of communication to its operations people.
These challenges of engagement and communication came screaming at the team in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. As information was coming at people from all directions; media sources, social media, friends and neighbours, it became very difficult for the company’s messages, policies and direction to find their way through. Misinformation and misunderstandings were rampant, and as an essential business, the company needed to keep its business going, and keep people safe, healthy and informed.
We had been, for some time, looking for a platform to communicate and connect with its team more effectively. All the solutions that were encountered were either cost prohibitive, not simple enough, needed an enterprise email address, or just tried to do too many things. In the search, we stumbled across a relatively unknown app called Blink.
The app seemed to have everything that the team was looking for; a news and information feed that could share company-wide or individual team information; a confidential instant messaging channel that could allow everyone in the company, regardless of their role, a two-way communication to everyone; and an intranet-like hub, where company policies, information, news, forms and micro-apps could be accessed. All of this could be achieved through the personal smartphones of everyone at the company.
The Blink sales and onboarding teams have been great to work with. Within two weeks, there was a 50-person active evaluation going, and within eight weeks of the company’s first sight of Blink, the company launched a wide roll out. With the Blink team and 15 internal designated Blink champions, the roll out has met all goals. Within just a few weeks, we had 75 per cent of the company’s employees activated on the app, and use of the app grows every day.
The team feedback has been tremendous, and employees are now able to exchange and have dialogue on all important company issues, from health and safety reporting and information sharing; to news and reports on client feedback; sharing production information and achievement; and human resources information and access.
Company policies, procedures, and employee services are now instantly accessed by all employees through their phone. It has allowed us to proactively communicate changes to its COVID-19 policies, and information and services related to recent Ontario pandemic measures.
In terms of business benefits of the Blink app, we are concentrating on several key target areas:
Using the Blink app to increase leadership presence and connection with all work teams. The level of engagement between all levels of leadership and their team is significantly enhanced through the app, both through news feeds and chat messages. This enables active engagement amongst teams, and can create a strong alignment with the company and team goals and mission.
Using the communication platforms to share important company information, news, plans, practices and policies. Given the diverse shift schedules that many of the teams work, and now those working on a remote schedule through the pandemic are able to get important company information and priorities at the same time, efficiently and effectively. It has allowed to increase health and safety awareness, and has contributed to improvements in reduction of safety incidents, and the engagement has improved productivity.
Blink offers the ability to share quick and easy feedback and recognition to individuals and teams, both from each other and their leaders. Timely recognition, celebration and feedback are important elements in creating a strong work culture and active engagement.
Giving the team a stronger voice
In all workforces, manufacturing, services or otherwise, the people and team’s sense that their voice is both important and heard is essential. Blink provides the channels and platform for this level of two-way connection, feedback and a stronger voice. This is important to help your team be and feel informed, and through effective communication everyone in the company can be activated towards the goals, mission and vision of the company.
Ron Harper is President and CEO of Cogent Power Inc.