In this blog, we’ll delve into the five most wanted employee benefits in the manufacturing industry, and how they can make a world of difference for you and your workforce.
The manufacturing industry has been a hot topic in the news recently. In the US, auto workers have been on a strike, with President Biden set to join them on the picket line. In the English town of Chesterfield in the East Midlands, skilled manufacturing workers voted to go on strike unanimously – with 100% of the workers in agreement to strike.
Companies like Thames Water and British Steel will lose manufacturing employees to the picket lines. So that brings up the question, what do workers in manufacturing want?
The Manufacturing Industry Today
The manufacturing industry has its beginnings at the start of the industrial revolution, where factories first began producing for a range of industries en masse. What’s not often known, is that the manufacturing industry has always been at the heart of industrial action.
In 1919, manufacturing workers in shipbuilding campaigned to reduce their working week to 47 hours. In 1926, transport and heavy industry workers joined a miners strike that led to over one and a half million people on the picket lines.
Flash forward to today, and many manufacturing workers are still carrying on the tradition of campaigning for a better working life. But the struggle to achieve that has had an impact on the workers. Since Brexit and the pandemic, there’s been a gradual decline of workers in the manufacturing industry. In the UK, vacancies in the manufacturing industry pre-pandemic to January 2022 increased by 90%.
What Are the Benefits that Employees in Manufacturing Want Most?
So, what do workers in the manufacturing industry want? How can you help prevent key workers in this industry leaving? Whilst competitive pay is important, it might surprise you to find out it’s not necessarily always the main cause for concern. Below are 5 of the most sought out (but often overlooked) employee benefits in the manufacturing industry.
Flexibility of Worktime Hours
Manufacturing workers in the auto industry have been striking for the last few weeks in the US and are showing no signs of backing down. Their number one request? Flexible worktime hours. Shawn Fain, President of the United Auto Workers group has said their union wants a 32-hour working week.
But this isn’t something that’s unique to the US. In 2022, parts of the UK trialled a 4-day working week with no drop in pay to overwhelmingly successful results. In fact, 92% of the companies that trialled it have adopted it completely. They found no loss in productivity, some even reported higher levels of productivity than before, whilst increasing employee satisfaction and well-being.
The main reason flexible working was the most desired benefit by manufacturing workers is because they want a “good work/life balance”. According to Michael Page, 68% of manufacturing employees cited this as their top priority, compared to an all-sectors average of 64%.
Upskilling & Training
Manufacturing is an evolving industry with constantly advancing technologies. Employees want opportunities to learn new skills and stay relevant in their roles. This has never been truer now in the age of AI and automation. One report found 60% of manufacturing employees feared AI might replace them in the future.
Again, Michael Page found in their UK survey, that job security was voted as the top priority by 55% of manufacturing employees compared to an all-sector average of 51%. One of the best ways to increase your job security is to train and continuously upskill yourself, making yourself indispensable to the company. By providing employees with the opportunity to do that, you increase the chance of retaining them for longer.
Free Meals at Work
Now this one may seem a little odd considering the other benefits on this list – but it also has its merits. By ‘free meal’ it doesn’t have to be a three-course lunch every day. It could be free snacks and drinks topped up daily, or Friday pizzas. It’s thought that 32% of offices in the UK offer some form of free snacks and drinks in the office. Many of those companies believe the socialisation aspect that comes with teams sitting down and eating together has been beneficial.
Again, looking at the manufacturing employee survey, 52% of manufacturing employees said good relationships with colleagues was the most desired factor. What better way to create good colleague relationships than by organising relaxed lunches where teams can talk over food and get to know each other? After all, food is something that brings people together, and that can be seen across all cultures all over the world.
Private Medical Insurance
Almost half of all manufacturing employees in the UK are 50 years old or over. On top of that, many manufacturing jobs can involve long hours doing physically demanding work. By offering private medical insurance, it helps offer that further peace of mind to employees.
It also helps stop employees missing days due to injury or sickness. Not only can you get seen faster through private medical care, but a wider range of treatments are available too. This is important for an ageing workforce and lets employees know you care about their well-being and not just what they can do for the company.
Given that almost half the manufacturing employees in the UK are nearing towards retirement age, it’s understandable that a good company pension is up there as one of the most desired benefits. In fact, 36% of manufacturing employees believe it’s important compared to the 27% average from other industries. One Zurich based research company found that workers in manufacturing were more likely to opt into company pension than in any other industry
By offering a good company pension plan you again show that you care for your employee’s well-being well after they’ve stopped working for you. This has the added bonus of making your company culture more attractive to other candidates.
How to Implement These Benefits
You may be looking at the above list and thinking how you could ever implement any of these benefits in your business. But there are ways in which you can. Below are just a few examples of you can start doing this.
Start with a Trial
You want to start implementing these changes, but you can’t just do it overnight. But what you can do, is start with a trial. Whether that means starting with a handful of workers, a department or a particular amount of time. Let’s say you wanted to put in place a 4-day work week. You could maybe pick one department and see how it works out. If it’s successful, you could then look to do that full time.
That’s exactly what Coventry based Manufacturing firm MTC have done. After first starting with a trial, all workers will now have the option to work a 4-day week after reporting higher levels of productivity. 83% of employees reported feeling happier, 42% had more energy and 40% reported better mental health.
Like the above, you can always start by staggering certain benefits before you decide to fully adopt them. You can choose a department or a handful of workers to trial it and start slowly, gradually increasing it before the whole business conforms. This has the added benefit of letting you see the effects of it on a small group of employees as well as letting you see any unforeseen problems that might arise.
Set Clear Metrics
Depending on the reasons you’re wanting to trial some of these benefits, you’re going to want to decide what metrics to measure. For example, if you’re trialling a 4-day work week, are you looking to measure employee engagement levels? Happiness at work? Less sick days? Higher employee retention? Whatever it is, make sure you choose the metrics that best apply so you know how to compare them to what was happening before.
It might also work hand in hand to conduct surveys after benefit trials have ended, so you’re getting first hand data and feedback.
Change the Way You Think About Work
Outcome based thinking challenges our traditional view of work. Famous anthropologist David Graeber talks about this in his book Bullshit Jobs. In it, he gives the example of many tribal societies whose work is to “survive”. Many he says, “work for 3 to 4 hours a day”. That’s because they get what they have to do done, and the rest of the time they’re free to enjoy their time in leisure.
For a long time, many corporate jobs have had an ‘input based’ approach to work. Caring about how many hours you worked rather than what you’ve actually contributed to the company. Moving away from this mindset is a must if you’re considering adopting any of these benefits like flexible working, 4-day work weeks, or team building lunches.
Don’t Think About Costs
Whilst it’s absolutely necessary to think about costs in a business sense, thinking about costs all the time can be counterproductive. Entrepeneur and investor Nick Huber talks about ‘scarcity mindset’ vs ‘abundance mindset’ in business. Some companies that have a scarcity mindset view expenses as a ‘cost’. An employee upskilling themselves would be a cost. An employee needing new equipment – another cost.
Instead, he encourages an abundance mindset. For every pound you spend on training an employee, see that as an opportunity for them to grow and excel and bring more revenue for your business. The same applies with spending on employee equipment or insurance. You’re helping make their life easier, which in turn will make the business’s life easier too.
The manufacturing industry like many has had its share of challenges. By offering some (if not all) of these sometimes-overlooked benefits, you can make a positive impact that will benefit your business in a lot of ways. From increased productivity and retention, better health (both mental and physical), and a more attractive company culture.
If you’d like to learn more about the different ways you can attract talent to your business, why not download our Ultimate Talent Acquisition Toolkit today? Get it here.