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Managing Line Workers: Five Secrets to Success

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Talent managers in every industry face a unique set of challenges. Field workers, admins, sales people, front line employees, and creative workers all respond to different forms of coaching and motivation, and what works for an independent employee behind a desk may not have the same impact on a team of interdependent workers in a fast-paced outdoor setting.

Specifically, line employees in manufacturing and processing plants tend to respond well to managerial tactics like the ones described below. If you’re trying to motive and retain teams on a line, talent tracking software and analytics can only take you so far. Try adding these moves to your management tool kit.

1. Watch them work. Actually circulate around the floor for at least an hour or two every day. Pay attention to employees and take note of how their hands move, how their eyes move, how fast they complete the tasks in front of them, and what specific moves tend to slow the process down. Who finds ways to excel? Who scrambles to keep up with the minimum? As a manager, you should be able to answer these questions, and you should certainly know the names and personalities at each station.

2. Recognize the signs of a thriving employee. Great line workers are the ones who maintain focus and energy after long shifts. They’re also the ones who attract newer and younger workers in need of help.

3. Solicit input. Host regular meetings (serve food if possible), and use these meetings to ask employees to open up about their interests, their concerns and their experiences on the floor. This will not only help keep lines of communication open, it will also help you better match interests, goals and personalities with specific jobs. Every business functions more effectively when skills and talents are aligned.

4. Experiment. Give employees a chance to engage in other aspects of the business. For example, schedule six week periods in which each line employee can spend time working on a project with the logistics, quality control, or product development team.

5. Reward top performers generously. And encourage employees to praise each other and nominate each other for these rewards. The best way to uncover an employee’s unique talents and passions is by tuning into the opinions of her peers.

In manufacturing and processing industries, line employees tend to be hard-working, focused, and often under-appreciated. As a result, talent and skill sets can go unrecognized, and companies can miss simple opportunities to maximize productivity. Get the most out of your talented line workers by re-evaluating your management strategy. The staffing experts at CSS can help.

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