Results from Chicago-based Aon's first-ever Manufacturing @ Work(tm) study, released by Aon Consulting's Loyalty Institute, show that employers can do more to increase overall levels of workforce commitment.

"Opportunities exist for manufacturing organizations to improve the commitment of their workforce," said Joel Van Haaften, senior consultant with Aon Consulting's Loyalty Institute and the director of this study. "By addressing concerns such as workplace stress and employees' desire for personal-growth opportunities, manufacturing organizations can increase the commitment and productivity of employees."

Based on my observations of the attendance at recent conferences devoted to our industry, I feel that commitment for personal-growth opportunities, such as attending technical meetings, may be one of our concerns. Granted, these are tough times for most companies. Nevertheless, depriving employees of educational and networking opportunities may not only affect their performance but also may affect company profits over the long term.

Company policies that discourage meeting participation also make it difficult for the organizers of the events who depend on volunteers for committees and presentations. Many meeting planners have conscientiously sought out economies for attendees including attendance fees, hotel rates and airport locations.

You may find some of the other key findings of the Aon study of interest:

  • Just over half (54 percent) of respondents report that their coworkers make efforts to improve their skills or make sacrifices to help the group succeed.

  • Some 71 percent of respondents would recommend their organization's products as the best that a customer could buy.

  • Only 50 percent of respondents, though, would recommend their organization as one of the best places to work.

  • Only 45 percent would stay at their employer if offered slightly higher pay elsewhere.

Aon research has shown that, in order for workplace practices to impact commitment levels, employers must focus on the basic issues of safety/security and rewards (such as benefits and compensation) first. Only after addressing these basic needs should more attention be paid to affiliation (or the creation of a sense of spirit and pride in the organization), growth and work/life harmony.

One area that may have the largest payoff toward a more productive manufacturing workforce is growth -- both personal and organizational. "Management needs to be more direct in their communication to employees about the growth opportunities at the company," continued Van Haaften. "Our survey shows that employees will pitch in -- but they want to know that, down the road, there's a chance to grow with the organization."

The complete Manufacturing @ Work study can be obtained by visiting