It’s hard to talk about manufacturing in the US without the issue of the skills gap coming up. We’ll always advocate to make the conditions as favorable as possible for employees and employers alike, and in this case we’ll take aim at opportunities within your organization. We learned recently from one of our customers who had CIMCO MDC installed last year a startling fact. They had an employee who was very under-recognized. By the hard numbers, this employee was substantially more productive than the others performing a similar role. The employee didn’t talk about how great they were, they just did their work and did it quite well. They were completely under the radar, and thank goodness that is no longer the case. Beyond illustrating the need for actionable metrics, this example reminds us of the tremendous value employees can potentially generate for their employers. Empowering employees will not only help with their contributions to the business, it will also contribute to their job satisfaction. This might be your solution to the manufacturing skills gap.
Defining Empowered Employees
You might think there is a simple definition for this, but believe it or not numerous papers on leadership, academia and other entities have varying ideas about what it means. For the purpose of this article we’re viewing Empowered Employees in a general sense as having these advantages:
- Sufficient knowledge and training to perform their role effectively
- Operational understanding and involvement in decisions
- Power to make decisions (authority sharing)
These advantages are the result of a culture that is committed to excellence and will attract and retain the “right” people for jobs.
Hire and Train Employees to Maximize Performance
Empowered employees feel confident in their ability to perform their job. When hiring and training emlpoyees this should always be a high priority. While analyzing studies on this subject one surprising fact emerged, too much of a good thing can be bad when it comes to retention. Over-trained employees for example are much more likely to quit and seek a more challenging job elsewhere.1 So while knowledge and training are essential, it should be appropriate to the job the employee is performing or that they are being groomed to perform.
Meaning and Sense of Control Improves Job Satisfaction
There is an established link between job satisfaction and empowerment, employees who become part of the process have a sense of meaning and control.2 In fact it reduces turnover intention, which is a fancy way of describing an employees likelihood of quitting their job.3
Exercise – Analyzing your Environment
Considering the subject of empowered employees, how does your company stack up? It might be a good time to look at Employee Empowerment in your company as a potential answer to the skills gap. Do you have open positions that you’ve been unable to fill? Have you assessed your current employees to see who could potentially fill these jobs with some additional training (empowerment)? According to the Bureua of labor and statistics there were 250,000 un-filled Manufacturing jobs in February 2014.4 Finding candidates within might seem like an obvious choice since entry level positions are a lot easier to fill.