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How to Build Value for Manufacturing Employees—On and Off the Clock

How to Build Value for Manufacturing Employees—On and Off the Clock
Posted on Monday, September 16, 2019 by Businessolver Team

It’s a truth that both economists and everyday Americans know well: the U.S. manufacturing sector has undergone significant changes in recent years.

Manufacturing workers

Digitalization and automation have created a boon in productivity, altering the employment outlook for manufacturing workers, and meanwhile, consumer demand for inexpensive goods delivered in a short period of time is unprecedented.

It’s frequently said that U.S. manufacturing is a disappearing sector, with fewer opportunities for work. Yet while manufacturing now makes up a smaller percentage of the overall economy than it once did, as of December 2018, the U.S. had as many people working in the manufacturing sector as it did in 1949. It’s within this complicated and often politicized environment that leaders in the manufacturing sector must make decisions about how to attract, retain and satisfy the nearly 12 million American workers in manufacturing positions today.  

Maintaining an engaged manufacturing workforce has unique challenges that require different approaches than what might be successful in the professional or service sectors. For one, retention is a significant concern: two in five companies in this sector say their annual turnover rate is 20% or higher. Wages in U.S. manufacturing have sunk to the bottom half of all jobs, which is a shift from previous decades. As the conditions that characterize this type of work change, the solutions that employers offer must evolve to remain relevant.

How can conscientious leadership face these challenges head on? One critical component is highlighting employee benefits through a total rewards solution. In the 2018 Aflac WorkForces Report, 55% of employees reported that they’d take a job with lower compensation if it included a more robust benefits package. In manufacturing, where workers have specific shift times and break periods, the ability to log on to a laptop to check their benefits is limited. A total reward solution closes this gap by providing information on compensation and benefits through a simple smartphone app at any time of day or night.

Here’s what to consider as you investigate the total rewards solution that will have the biggest impact on your manufacturing workers:

  1. Implement a comprehensive solution. Employees are very likely to know how much they’re taking home in their paycheck. They’re much less likely to know the monetary impact that their benefits contribute to their overall compensation. Your solution should incorporate a record from all your benefit carriers or vendors to show your full benefits investment.
  2. Make sure your system is configurable. What good is a solution that your HR team isn’t able to set it up easily? Your system should require no additional technical expertise outside of your core team, to reduce delays in getting employees the most updated information as soon as possible.
  3. Integrate with your larger benefits administration platform. For manufacturing employees who spend the day away from a computer, a one-stop shop is crucial. Reducing the need for multiple passwords across different benefits sites will increase the likelihood that employees will utilize the solution you offer—and absorb its value.
  4. Provide employee access year-round, on any device. Many employees only consider the value of their benefits once a year, during annual enrollment. Making your total rewards solution accessible year-round on multiple devices helps to drive home the investment you’re making, strengthening the likelihood that employees who understand that value will stay committed to their positions.
  5. Offer employees personalized information. Sharing general information about benefits doesn’t give employees the full range of data they need to make decisions about their lives away from work. Your solution should show each individual exactly what compensation and benefits they personally receive.
  6. Encourage employees to take the next step. Benefits literacy is a challenge in today’s complex benefits ecosystem. Your employees may have opportunities to optimize their elected rewards but may be unaware of how to do so. An effective solution will point employees to the places where they can get more from their benefits, such as investing in a 401(k) with employer matching.
  7. Consider a partner whose sole focus is benefits. Often total rewards solutions are offered by tech firms who also provide various other services and don’t specialize in benefits. However, to be most effective, your partner should be able to support your business technologically and with a deep understanding of your benefits program.

Manufacturing employees deserve the highest standard of transparency and flexibility in their compensation. A total rewards solution not only informs these employees of their total compensation package—it helps demonstrate your commitment to their work in an ever-changing economy.