A Flexible Workforce Drives Employee Engagement, Innovation & Sustainable Growth

Emma Weir is a member of the Kronos for Manufacturing team, she attended The Flexible Workforce Conference, run by The Manufacturer, which was held earlier this week. Here is her report on the day’s event and what a flexible workforce has meant to some key manufacturing organisations.

 EW2When people ask me to explain the link between workforce management and employee engagement they often find themselves listening for quite a while before I step off my soapbox. Employee engagement is about attracting, retaining and effectively using the talent within your business to sustain the employee talent pool which, in turn, underpins sustainable growth and innovation in the business.  Workforce management supports engagement factors such as rewards & benefits, employee self-service and reporting so you can make decisions quickly that will positively impact your environment and the deployment of new skills.  Workforce management also enables flexible working, another key engagement enabler by giving visibility, in real time, to employee activity and time.

 Flexibility in the business benefits both employee and employer and this week I was really excited to attend The Flexible Workforce Conference, run by The Manufacturer magazine that was held at the Hilton Metropole in Birmingham. Attendees included several organisations that, I am proud to say, use our workforce management solution.

 Jon West, Employee Relations Director at Jaguar Land Rover opened the day by tellling the audience about how JLR  rose from the ashes of a financial crisis that cut their sales in half overnight to become a dominant player in the global market place. Over the last few years they have swelled their ranks by some 10,000+ employees and are still recruiting aggressively. Paul Harnetty, Operations Director of The Authentic Food Company then gave a compelling presentation about the lengths they have gone  to ensure all their employees (and their families) are fully engaged in the business in order to retain staff and sustain productivity improvements. By the end of the session he had us all wanting to work at his factory! And, later on in the day, I watched Allan Harley talk about the Vaillant Production System and credit Kronos as ‘the Catalyst to VPN’ by encouraging them to enter the Manufacturing Awards which gave them a benchmark on how they get the best from their people. He presented a no-nonsense management model implemented to keep Vaillant the number one UK boiler manufacturer by empowering each employee to be responsible for improving their section of the business – from which they have already reaped tangible financial benefits.

 Not surprisingly, throughout the day skills shortage and staff engagement were recurring themes but the last speaker threw the cat amongst the pigeons.

 Julian Wilson, Managing Director of Matt Black Systems (voted top supplier to GE), held the audience captive with his tales of working in a leaderless business, where the employee dictated the content of their job and each employee held a P&L account so they could see their exact contribution on a monthly basis. He talked of how he encouraged some staff turnover to keep ideas and thinking fresh (GE Aviation had previously mentioned a 99% retention rate at their Swansea MRO business). He discussed how having just one leader in the business plan can stifle the creativity, curiosity and imagination that’s key to drive innovation and how, if you aren’t fully engaged in the one leader’s vision, it can shut down the self-discipline, co-operation and realisation (good execution) that is crucial to the robustness and resilience of any business.  Julian gave a refreshing view of the anti-leadership model with employees on the shop floor earning up to £90,000 a year depending on how much they got involved in the design and sales of their products. To me it sounded like a fully engaged workforce. As an SME, this utopian model is clearly working, but for the rest of us I guess we’ll need to stick to what we know and put our faith in leaders that know how to sustain innovation, robustness and resilience in a tough market place.

 You are welcome to join the discussion and follow @emmaweir on Twitter and you can also find out more in our white paper on Employee Engagement in Manufacturing


Is Managing a Global Workforce the Next Big Challenge for Manufacturers?

Global Trade is growing at twice the pace of Global GDP. What does this actually mean and is it a good thing? Well, simply put, it means that manufacturers must increase production in order to satisfy the increase in demand – which sounds like a really great opportunity for growth and the expansion of trade into the international marketplace. But what are the challenges organisations are facing when meeting this increase in global demand?

Global Trade

Governments around the world are ‘wising up’ and putting pressure on manufacturers to establish production sites in their countries should they wish to have trade agreements. For example, in the US, Bombardier won a contract to supply subway carriages but the proviso was that they agreed to build the carriages locally. Whilst in China any company wanting to set up domestic production has to partner with a local business – providing local jobs and also teaching the local labour force new skills.

When it comes to managing a global workforce, outsourcing is no longer an excuse for not knowing how labour is managed or non-compliance. As labour forces have become more informed the instances of companies being sued for breaches of labour regulations has rocketed.

Luckily manufacturers are responding to these pressures and many are realising that having a global workforce means that they need a global workforce management solution that can help track labour hours, control costs and address language, cultural and compliance issues. Kronos is one of the few workforce management solution providers with a global presence, local labour knowledge and an understanding of the needs of global manufacturers when it comes to reporting locally, regionally and globally.

If you know of examples where international organisations have fallen foul of local labour laws or have overcome challenges associated with a global workforce I would be keen to hear from you.