Why It’s Time Manufacturers Embrace People-Centric Scheduling Strategies
Manufacturers continue to navigate a challenging economic environment, grappling with inflation and supply chain disruptions. Amid these challenges, however, there’s an opportunity to focus on the industry’s greatest asset—its workers.
We recently published our survey, The State of the Hourly Worker, which delved into factors important to hourly workers, such as job satisfaction, retention, work schedules, the impact of the pandemic and benefits. Here are some highlights from the findings:
Work-life balance remains a priority for hourly workers
Nearly a quarter of the manufacturing workforce is 55 or older, indicating a looming labor shortage for the nation’s fifth-largest employment sector. That means attracting and retaining talent—especially younger talent—should be a top priority.
In fact, 75% of all workers surveyed agreed that work-life balance was necessary for job satisfaction. The desire for work-life balance even overpowered other more traditional factors, things like a good relationship with your boss (64%), a convenient location (63%), comprehensive benefits (58%), and engaging in enjoyable tasks or projects (55%). Keeping workers engaged can often hinge on something as fundamental as the work schedule.
Employee scheduling Is a key strategy for manufacturing excellence
Let’s put work-life balance into perspective. A common narrative we often hear from hourly workers is the difficulty they experience when communicating with managers about their work schedules. Here’s a recent example our account team heard: A worker wanted to pick up an extra shift, so they bid on an open shift. Hours before the shift started, they never received confirmation that their shift request had been accepted or denied. Worried that they’d be reprimanded for not showing up to work—if they were, indeed, scheduled for that extra shift—they came in just to be safe at 2 a.m.
This story highlights the importance of communication and a policy for closing the loop with employees to build trust during the transition to an automated, employee-centric scheduling solution. In this case, the right tools were in place (i.e., a mobile app to enable bidding), yet the policies were not enforced to ensure employees were notified if their bid was accepted. Here I share how manufacturers leverage employee scheduling strategies to boost employee satisfaction and retention and increase operating efficiency.
- Provide schedule predictability: Our research confirms that manufacturing workers value predictability in their routines. Nearly all (83%) of manufacturing workers—and 79% of all workers—strongly prefer consistency over variability in their work schedules. This makes sense considering hourly workers prioritize work-life balance the most.
- Enable the ability to swap shifts: While consistency is important, having the ability to make changes to their schedules when needed is nearly essential to managers and workers. Our survey found that 75% of manufacturing workers value the option to trade shifts. This sentiment is echoed by younger generations, with 85% of Gen Z and 75% of Millennials valuing the ability to swap shifts. If workers can’t easily trade shifts, they may struggle to manage personal commitments and responsibilities, leading to dissatisfaction and affecting their performance and retention. From a management perspective, denying workers the convenience to adjust their schedules affects team dynamics, increases absenteeism, and could lead to staffing gaps.
- Empower more schedule autonomy: The inability to influence work schedules causes stress for 53% of workers surveyed, with 41% saying they’d seek employment elsewhere. Similarly, more than half of Millennials (51%) and Gen Z (55%) say the ability to influence their schedule is necessary for job satisfaction. Needless to say, scheduling policies that allow for greater autonomy can have an immense impact on job satisfaction and retention.
- Establish real-time communication channels: More than half of manufacturing workers (57%) indicated that employers understanding their scheduling needs was essential for job satisfaction. This understanding is based on clear communication. Our survey revealed that 44% of hourly workers would consider switching jobs if they couldn’t communicate their schedules, such as taking a sick day, to their employer. In an era of digital convenience, managers should offer accessible, flexible, and mobile-friendly scheduling systems. As it turns out, 81% of workers prefer mobile access to their work schedules.
Navigating these shifting workforce dynamics can be challenging. But these findings offer a blueprint for sustained growth and productivity in the manufacturing sector. By prioritizing work-life balance and building strong two-way communication strategies as essential components of a scheduling strategy, manufacturers can focus on its most important resource—its workers.
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