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Thursday, April 05 2018


Are you one of the many employers who struggles to find and retain talent? If you answered no, congratulations – you have figured out something the rest of us have not!  If you answered yes, here is some insight into how you can begin to address this issue...

The Data

Recently, Emplify released a quarterly report in which they evaluated employee engagement based upon 14 drivers that measure engagement. The report also categorized the data based on industry type, including manufacturing. As you would expect, manufacturing was my focus. Of the 14 drivers, four (4) stood out as having significant impact for manufacturing: Meaning, Purpose, Feedback, and Manager Relationships. 

The data indicates manufacturing employees struggle to find meaning more than people working in knowledge-based, project-based and other service-based roles. Manufacturing companies scored 37% lower in meaning than construction companies, who scored the highest in meaning. Of course, this varies from industry to industry. For example, it is much easier for an employee at a pharmaceutical manufacturer to see meaning and purpose in their work than say at a consumer plastic-parts manufacturer. 

Another conclusion of the data is Generation Z and Millennials are the least likely to feel a sense of meaning and purpose. Generation Z employees are 16% less likely to report feeling utilized at work than Millennials, and, as you might expect, Baby Boomers are 27% more likely to feel more utilized at work than the youngest employees.

However, I suggest, as does the data, that meaning and purpose can, and should, be improved through taking action on the latter two drivers: Feedback and Manager Relationships. 

Driving Meaning and Purpose

Regardless of generation, people like to feel they have purpose and meaning in their life. Since most of our lives are spent at work, it makes sense this is an important factor for individuals. This is particularly true in the younger generations. Like it or not, they have a constant need for affirmation, praise, and feedback. The good thing is this is something those of us in supervisory positions can provide on a regular basis. 

Often in manufacturing companies, we are so focused on getting product out the door and meeting the metrics we tend to forget it is the employees who accomplish those tasks. Do not get me wrong, meeting the metrics are important to our success, however, the best way to accomplish those metrics is to have engaged employees. We have become so focused on our manufacturing processes and the improvement thereof, we often overlook the fact that training and professional development is also a process. Giving meaningful, positive, constructive feedback is a process. 

Taking Action

When is the last time you gave your employee(s) good honest, positive constructive feedback? How many times have you given public praise to your employee(s) in the last week? How many successes have you celebrated in the last month? Based on the data from Emplify, these processes deserve our focus. Research shows companies with truly engaged employees are more productive, more successful, and more profitable. We CAN take action today. Start giving more praise to your employees, particularly the Millennials and Gen Zs. Explain to them regularly how important their part is in the success of the overall organization. Use positive coaching methods. These are just a few things we can do to help improve meaning and purpose for our employees.

To learn more about how to improve on these and other employee-centric processes, contact Joe McMurry at Purdue MEP.

Click here: to read the full report from Emplify, a company focused on distilling culture and feedback into employee analytics that enable leaders to make better data-driven decisions.

Writer: Joseph McMurry, 317-275-6810,

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