The statistics are everywhere, but if you work in manufacturing and construction, you don't need statistics to confirm what you already know: frontline workers are not engaged. The downstream effects of disengagement are significant, quantifiable and avoidable. The first step in addressing engagement problems is to define the term - What does it mean to say Workers are engaged?
The most important aspect of engagement (and the one most often overlooked) is its bi-directional nature. The essence of engagement is an ongoing give and take of information. Put more simply, engagement requires both a voice and ears to hear that voice. When evaluating engagement within an organization, it is important to take both the perspective of the manager and the worker into account.
Management is usually focused on the "giving" side of the relationship rather than "receiving". Through various channels, including signage, meetings and email, managers engage with workers by telling them a combination of what they need to hear and what management thinks they need to hear. The flow of information is entirely one way, from manager to worker.
Workers are often inundated with information emanating from well-intentioned management. Because there is no true back and forth sharing, workers are actually able to consume only a portion of the information given to them. This uni-directional communication flow actually reduces the comprehension level among workers and results in a disengaged facility. Management has a voice but no ears - workers have ears but no voice, and disengagement reigns.
Collaborative, engaged teams that are part of a thriving community are in constant communication, giving and sharing feedback through a variety of channels. Worker voices are heard, and feedback loops are closed. The effect of engagement tends to grow exponentially over time - as workers see their input being valued, they generate more input, which further enhances the overall engagement level across the organization.
This level of engagement is extremely difficult to achieve in manufacturing and construction, which is why disengagement is pervasive in these industries.
The questions to ask in your organization are: Have you implemented tools to give your workers a voice? Does management have tools to hear and respond to that voice?