How to measure employee engagement within manufacturing

Keeping your manufacturing staff happy is critical if you plan to grow your business and continue to delight your customers. 

Disgruntled employees have the ability to sap the lifeblood from your organisation. And in some cases, one or two negative views can spread quickly throughout a business like an uncontrollable virus.

So, whilst it is important to deal with issues the moment they arise, it is also vital to have a system in place to measure views and opinions on a regular basis and with a long term view. 

One simple way to achieve this is to develop an annual staff satisfaction survey.

Employee engagement plays a key factor in the likelihood that your staff will stay loyal to you and want to keep working in your business. With the skills gap in engineering and manufacturing not showing any signs of reducing, it is important not only to attract new talent to your company but also to retain what you already have.

In this blog post we explain how to set up a simple, yet effective survey and we highlight some of the key points to consider before, during and after the process. 

Before we get into the details of a survey, it is worth mentioning that there are a number of companies out there that will offer to run employee engagement surveys for you. If you haven’t run something similar in the past, creating a survey, collating responses and analysing the data might feel a little daunting.

However, the online packages that are now available are intuitive and easy to work with and some of the basic ones start at just £25 per month making them cost effective. And of course, you then have the flexibility to use these throughout the year to gain even more valuable feedback from your staff.

Communicating out to staff

Before sending out the survey it is important to let staff know it is heading their way, what it involves and why you are running it.

At JJS, employee engagement is one of our top-level key performance indicators and whilst we have communicated this in the past, we still send out a ‘reminder’ e-mail each time a survey is sent. Typically, this e-mail is sent out a couple of months in advance of the actual survey itself.

Assuring anonymity

Anonymity during the survey process is key to building up trust. You will need to think carefully about what sort of data you want to capture and whether or not this has the potential to ‘expose’ individuals.

Our advice is to keep identity data to a minimum and only use criteria that will provide useful information in your analysis. For example, do you really need to know gender or age group? Probably not. And if you have departments with only one or two team members, perhaps you should remove this question too?

Ultimately, it is your call but if you go too far you could struggle to get meaningful data. So, find a happy medium, remembering though that some staff will be cynical of the entire process regardless of what you ask them and how often you tell them the results are anonymous!

Which questions should I ask?

You may already have a set of questions you plan to ask which is great. If you haven’t, or you want to check what you are planning to ask will produce meaningful results, it is worth looking at the Gallup Q12 index. These 12 questions are widely regarded as a credible way of measuring employee engagement and the result of 30 years of in-depth behavioural economic research involving more than 17 million employees.

You may find that you were already planning to ask similar questions and of course, there’s nothing to stop you adding a few more yourself to tailor the survey to your business or sector. Regardless of your approach, the one thing that is worth taking away from the Gallup Q12 index is the simplicity and the small number of questions used.

Which survey tool is right for me?

There are hundreds of on-line survey tools out there. To help you decide which one is right for you, Capterra have kindly rounded up what they believe are the 9 best free and open source ones.

At JJS, we use Survey Monkey and we have found it easy to use and very cost effective. We use the Gallup Q12 index as our base and then ask a few additional questions. Survey Monkey automatically collates the information for us (and importantly has the option to set results as anonymous as previous mentioned) so we can then easily analyse and score the results.

You will need to consider what scoring criteria you use to define levels of engagement. For instance, we have stated that any score of 23 or less denotes ‘disengaged’, 24 – 35 is classed as ‘neutral’ and a score of 36 or more suggests to us that the individual is ‘engaged’. The output of the results can be exported easily into a spreadsheet, which then makes it easy for us to sort and display the data in graphs etc.

How long should I run an employee engagement survey?

There are no set rules, but for the best results you will want to keep the survey open long enough to allow the maximum number of staff to respond. Two or three weeks should suffice and gives enough time for people that are away from the business on holiday etc to complete the survey.

If you have production staff that don’t have access to e-mail or a computer on a daily basis, you might want to consider setting up a number of laptops in one of your meeting rooms. This allows them to complete the survey during working hours without encroaching on personal time.

And if you have staff away on maternity leave, who are long-term sick or who work remotely then you'll want to make sure you send them the survey as well. Although they might not be visible on a day-to-day basis, their views and opinions count.

Analysing the data

Your scoring matrix will help split out the engaged, neutral and disengaged figures at a top level but individual comments can really help give you insight into what your staff are thinking.

It is important to focus on the trends and not to get emotional about some of the comments made. Make sure you keep staff appraised of the results and the actions you have taken to help reinforce the point that you value their input. Quite often you will find there are a number of ‘quick wins’ which take very little time, effort and cost to address but that can make a big difference to an individual or team's outlook.

You might also want to share some of the individual comments with staff. One suggestion would be to show contradictory comments i.e. ‘I really like the flexible hours’ vs ‘I wish we had more flexibility in our hours’ to demonstrate differing views and that from a business perspective, it’s sometimes difficult to react to every single comment and please all of your staff all of the time.

Finally, continue to communicate with your staff long after the survey process. And keep track of your results year on year. By giving your staff a voice, by genuinely looking at ways in which to help improve their working environment and by keeping them appraised of changes, I’m confident you will see improvements – both on your graphs and within individual departments.

Good luck!

Written by Jessica Plank

Based in Switzerland, Jessica holds a Bachelor's degree in Business Administration and has day-to-day responsibility for strategic marketing tactics including blog management, social media marketing, e-mail marketing, and European event management. Jessica’s dedication to maintaining a strong online presence has significantly contributed to the success of ESCATEC's marketing initiatives since she joined the team in 2021.