Manufacturing workers under increasing amounts of pressure to deliver on time

Despite differences in their day-to-day responsibilities, new research from Microsoft Australia released today has revealed that manufacturing firstline workers – the people who create and build products – and business managers are facing similar workplace pressures. The pressures identified by manufacturing workers are meeting deadlines and expected outcomes, financial performance and bottom line profits, and work life balance.

In an online survey commissioned by Microsoft and conducted by research firm, YouGov, over 1,000 working adults employed in four industry sectors – health, retail, manufacturing and public sector -were surveyed. The research looks to establish what the greatest challenges and pressures workers face and to identify the types of solutions employees want to help alleviate them.

The research reveals firstline workers and business managers share the same top three business priorities including growing their skill set, improving workplace culture and enhancing customer experience. More than half of firstline workers (54 per cent) identified growing their skill set as the top business priority compared to 39 per cent of business managers. This was followed by improving workplace culture expressed by 40 per cent of firstline workers and 39 per cent of business managers and improving customer experience, which was identified by 35 per cent of both firstline workers and business managers.

Manufacturing workers under workplace pressure

The research further reveals that firstline workers and business managers experience the same challenges and pressures in the workplace.

More than three quarters of firstline worker respondents (78 per cent) identified meeting deadlines as one of the most significant pressures in the workplace, this was even higher for business managers with 82 per cent under pressure to deliver work on time. 63 per cent of firstline workers identified financial performance as a significant workplace pressure, with almost three quarters of business managers (74 per cent) agreeing they are under pressure to meet bottom line profits.

Three quarters of business managers (75 per cent) are under pressure to strike a good work life balance with 60 per cent of firstline workers agreeing.

Digital transformation in the workplace

The manufacturing sector is undergoing a period of rapid transformation, driven by the automation of processes and operations.

For firstline workers, the impact of this automation can create distance from an organisation’s higher purpose. Despite efforts to create a more engaged firstline, the research reveals almost a quarter of firstline workers (22 per cent) are committed but not engaged in their current role, 21 per cent of business managers felt the same.

Ian Heard, Modern Workplace Lead, Microsoft Australia said, “Employee engagement goes right to the heart of a business and does not just makes a business unique, but also successful. A productive manufacturing sector driven by an engaged, collaborative and connected workforce will provide a catalyst for economic growth. At Microsoft, we empower firstline workers by providing them with digital tools to exercise greater creative and strategic freedom, bringing real value to their work. Organisations which create an engaged, connected and collaborative workforce will be better poised for success in the long-term by promoting a productive workforce.”

More than half of manufacturing respondents (51 per cent) – both firstline workers and business managers – agree that their organisation provides limited access to the latest technologies including devices in the workplace. Forty-five per cent of both firstline workers and business managers agree that access to devices will boost employee engagement and satisfaction in the workplace.

Furthermore, the research reveals a key to alleviating workplace pressures in the manufacturing sector is clearer communication from leadership, with almost half of firstline workers (42 per cent) citing the need for streamlined communication.

The findings of this research could not come at a better time with the launch of new capabilities into Microsoft Teams, facilitating streamlined communication and collaboration between business managers and firstline workers. This includes Shifts, a new feature which enables managers to create schedules and employees to swap shifts and request time off. Manufacturing workers will also have access to Teams via a mobile app, giving them access to rostering, to-do lists and important organisation-wide announcements.

“At Microsoft, we recognise the value of having access to the latest technologies including devices as a tool to alleviate workplace pressures. Microsoft’s Surface Go which is now available in Australia, has been purposely designed to improve employee engagement and satisfaction, making it easier for workers to collaborate and communicate.

“By using tools like the Surface Go, workers have access to Microsoft Teams, improving on the transparency and timeliness for critical communications that supports their work.”

Furthermore, 40 per cent of firstline workers and 42 per cent of business managers cited the need for greater access to training as a key measure to alleviate workplace pressure.

This is supported by the launch of new live and on-demand events, now generally available in Microsoft 365 enabling staff to create and stream events including training sessions in Microsoft Stream, Teams, or Yammer informing and engaging employees from the firstline to management.

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