Let's cover the basics first. In all industries, a successful onboarding has a significant effect on employee experience. Employees who are well onboard are 30% more likely to feel well integrated into their new place of work, 30 times more likely to experience high job satisfaction and 18 times more likely to feel committed to their company.
In short, a well-onboarded employee becomes a highly-engaged employee. Gallup has demonstrated that companies with highly engaged workforces outperform their peers by 147% in earnings per share.
Engaged employees also stay with companies longer. Given that manufacturers are currently experiencing historically-high employee churn rates — and Speakap's research discovered that it costs a minimum of $1,000 to replace entry-level non-desk employees without even accounting for losses in productivity and performance — increasing employee retention can have a hugely positive impact on the bottom line.
That's the good news. The bad news? You have a short window to impress your new hires. After just one week in a new company, 33% of new hires know whether they want to stay long-term; almost two-thirds know whether their new role is a keeper after the first month.
If onboarding and the resulting engagement rise is important in the average industry, then the consequences are magnified within manufacturing. Here, successful onboarding is not only a matter of engagement or productivity but also higher accident, health and safety factors. In manufacturing, new workers equate to higher risk. Employees in their first month are three times more likely to incur a lost-time injury. Proper onboarding negates a large part of that risk.
Who has the time for onboarding?
Most manufacturers understand the need for excellent onboarding. The question is often: who should be responsible for it? HR departments lack the resources or role-specific knowledge to take care of onboarding. Meanwhile, production pressures make manufacturers unreceptive to the notion of taking managers off their production lines while they show new employees the ropes.
The best onboarding processes, both for the employee but also the company, tend to use multiple tactics and delivery vehicles for great excellent onboarding experiences.
- With the right technology, such as an Enterprise Social Network (ESN) or employee app, in place, HR can take care of a lot of the time-consuming paperwork, such as payroll and sign-in procedures before day one.
- Managers can also contact new team members ahead of their start day with links to any documentation around health and safety, as well as documents or even videos (we'll discuss video later) relating to carrying out the specific role.
- Most successful manufacturers now use a buddy system, whereby existing employees are teamed with new starters to help integrate them into the set-up. Making introductions on an employee app ahead of starting dates gives new-hires a chance to ask any questions they may have so they arrive feeling confident and settled for their first day on the factory floor.
- Line managers should be present on an employee's first day on the shop floor – few things convey lack of engagement like a manager not being there on day one. Or not knowing the employee's name and job title.
- Managers should look to make that first day memorable in some way – no matter how small. This could be treating the new employee to lunch in the canteen, organizing a drink after work, or having a small gift to make the new-hire feel welcome. Some official company merch will do the trick!
- Depending on the size of your site, mentors, supervisors, guides, or trainers should be available to walk new-hires through the facility and explain the whole process and role they'll be playing in it. With employees often starting on the same day (like the first day of the month), trainers can onboard and give tours to multiple employees, saving time and helping new starters to meet other newbies.
- Manufacturing employees are likely to have questions about their roles and responsibilities, particularly in the first few weeks. Make sure they know whom to turn to for the correct answers.
- Managers should make time at the end of new employees' first day, week and month to see how they're settling in.
Technology trends in onboarding
The advantage of following the above plan is that new manufacturing employees receive a high-quality onboarding while the workload is spread amongst multiple people and an extended timescale. However, technology is playing an increasing role in providing a better onboarding experience for both manufacturer and employee.
As we've already explained, a company-wide ESN or employee app can help new starters to connect with other team members and even ask questions regarding their role before starting. A quality ESN can also provide a single sign-on employee hub for accessing everything from scheduling to payroll software.
One challenge facing many manufacturers is how to pass on the vast volumes of knowledge that tend to live chiefly in the minds of experienced employees on the shop floor to new hires who need access to that information to perform their roles well.
Manufacturers should seek to document and distill this information into simple, easy-to-use guides that are stored somewhere that can be accessed by all employees at any time. Again, a good employee app will either provide document storage or at least be able to integrate with a storage system.
Given that most modern facilities are likely to comprise an international workforce of varying language and skill levels, video can be precious for instructing and motivating new employees on the first day and beyond.
- Create a video tour of the facility, including where to go in the case of an emergency, to share with new-hires.
- Share a welcome message from the CEO or regional manager to make employees feel welcomed and recognized.
- Have experienced employees create videos about how to perform vital everyday tasks, from clocking in and out to booking vacation days.
- Provide ongoing training and development in the form of snackable videos that employees can do on their break time.
Bring all of these strategies and technologies together to provide your manufacturing employees with a quality onboarding experience, and you'll see the ROI for years to come. Fewer accidents and incidents, lower turnover and more productive employees… and who doesn't want to manufacture some of those results?