Creating a culture of wellbeing in your manufacturing and logistics organisation

By  Grainne Elliott, Chief Marketing Officer, Thrive.

We recently passed the year mark of the coronavirus pandemic. Do you know how your employees are feeling?

Those employed in the manufacturing and logistics sectors have done quite a bit of heavy lifting in the past year, and even prior to the pandemic, as the industry has experienced massive growth and change. To name a few of the stressors:  

  • Concerns about Brexit’s effect on hauling and transport on the roads and railways and at the ports.
  • Dealing with increased pressures to be ever more efficient and cost-effective in the fiercely competitive market.
  • Managing timely, accurate delivery of exploding e-commerce orders (accounting for more than 30% of total retail sales in 2020, up from 21.8% the year prior). 

While COVID-19 showed how vital the manufacturing, logistics, distribution and storage industry is to the wider public, those on the inside have dealt with growing pains and pandemic pressures: uncertainty, staff shortages, long hours, shifts in company culture due to market consolidation, and feeling disconnected and undervalued. 

In fact, 71% of 2,600 surveyed workers in this sector indicated they would consider searching for new employment. Part of that is that 39% are unhappy with how their employer has handled the pandemic. This is a blow, considering that good workers are already hard to come by. 

Needed: A New Emphasis on Physical, Emotional and Mental Well-Being

It can be so easy for organisations to slip into an emphasis on metrics having to do with production or speed of delivery. But without an equal focus on the well-being of the individuals responsible for those metrics, everyone is set up to fail. An approach to well-being within the workplace should be at the cultural level, not a one-off, knee-jerk reaction to circumstances. 

Just as key: a holistic approach to well-being. Workplace injuries or physical illnesses are often the top concern when we think about well-being in the context of the logistics sector. But there’s more to it than that. Employees need support in all areas: physical, emotional, and mental. That support is best delivered and felt when it’s made available to deskless workers, who are digesting a steady stream of company information out in the field and on-the-go. 

Here are some ways that manufacturing and logistics organisations can better integrate well-being into the organisational culture. 

1. Prioritise Safety by Personalising It

Physical well-being can be promoted by making sure safety updates are available and actionable immediately. Communicating safety updates via email or newsletter is often too slow, and that doesn’t take into account the needs of logistics workers, who are rarely sitting at desks reading their email or have access to email.

Urgent safety news can instead be pushed out via a communications app or otherwise made available on the employee’s handheld device. Using an app means messages can even be personalised and targeted to specific employees, roles and locations. Some employee apps like Thrive.App have features built in to include Health and Safety videos, policies and procedure that employees can read and acknowledge they have read and understood with a press of a button; this can then be pulled into a report for auditing purposes.  

Also important: creating safe, easily accessible spaces where employees can feel comfortable getting needed support resources and counselling services. Digital guides can offer resources for managing well-being, and anonymous chat portals can allow a team member to talk through a problem or blow off steam with a health professional. 

2. Promote Physical Health

Whether your employees are lifting and standing all day, or spending time sitting in the driver’s seat of a lorry, they need to stay physically healthy to perform their best. 

Help hardworking employees prevent injury and show them you care about their physical health by providing short pre-work and intra-work stretching exercise videos or diagrams in your employee communications app. You can even target routines to specific roles or work requirements. 

As well, allow ample rest breaks and time off. Push out in-app badges or other rewards to employees who go for a walk or do a virtual yoga class. Employees who work long shifts need to know that an employer is advocating for their downtime. 

3. Take Their Pulse

To really understand how your employees are doing, you need them to tell you. A sit-down heart-to-heart may not be an option, but you can still get a read using frequent pulse surveys or implementing other easy, quick ways for employees to provide feedback. 

These can be used to assess employee well-being overall, and to ask specific questions, the answers to which can help you know where changes need to be made. Collecting this data can help you spot trends and even see red flags. 

Make sure your employees know that they are being listened to. Communication should be two-way, so open up the channels of communication even further where you can and encourage your employees to be part of the conversation with one-on-one or group sessions.

4. Facilitate Connection, Community and Purpose

In response to the pandemic, 81% of employees working in logistics said they would like to move to a position that gives them a greater sense of purpose, and 85% want their work to have meaning. Perhaps this change in priorities can be supported without those employees feeling they have to leave their current roles. 

Look for in-person and digital ways to foster a sense of connectedness for employees, who want to feel connection to their role and to the big picture of the organisation, as well as to other team members. Inspire purpose by ensuring employees understand the organisation’s vision and goals and work with them to set their own goals that feed into the big picture. 

Encourage them to take ownership of their work by giving them independence to do their work, while also giving them meaningful and timely feedback on their progress. Provide educational opportunities that give employees a chance to grow and learn, rather than just punch a time clock. 

5. Celebrate People, Not Productivity

Extrinsic rewards are no longer the only way to motivate employees, and in fact, won’t even hold the same appeal in a post-pandemic world as they did previously. Find other ways to rally teams and recognise a job well done or contributions that reflect that greater purpose, rather than focusing purely on tactical success. 

Sure, hitting certain production goals should be recognised, but so should smaller daily acts of kindness, courage, and integrity. In other words, create a culture wherein employees know that they are valued beyond their ability to do their jobs. 

Take time to acknowledge employees’ successes, whether they’re work or personal accomplishments. Thanking and congratulating them on their achievements makes them feel valued and appreciated, which can massively boost employee morale.

Prioritise Health & Wellbeing for a Happier Workforce

Covid-19 has inevitably changed the way we work and employers should adapt to new ways of working that support their teams during both good and challenging times. Putting your employees’ wellbeing first creates a culture of connection, and when people feel connected and valued, they in turn feel motivated and more driven, resulting in a better bottom line for business.

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