Do Your Employees Have a Say in Your Company’s Future?

BY Kathy Crosett
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Managing a team of blue-​collar employees in today’s workforce comes with plenty of stress. Your employees are constantly looking over their shoulders. They worry that the next tech development could wipe out their jobs. How can you possibly retain employees in this brave new world?

Dennis Campbell, John Case, and Bill Fotsch explain that manufacturing work now accounts for only 10% of U.S. employment. Decades ago, blue-​collar work often came with union-​protected pay and benefits. These days, blue-​collar work may still pay well. But, employees have no guarantee about the future. They may head out the door before you even finish training them.

One way to guarantee interest in the company’s success is to make every employee an owner. Campbell and his co-​authors cite several studies that focus on employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs). Historically, these plans have been used at knowledge-​work companies. Lately, businesses with lower-​wage employees have rolled out ESOPs. Research finds a strong correlation between improved job performance and an ESOP. On average, a business can expect to see productivity jumps of 5% in the year after an ESOP is rolled out.

These statistics shouldn’t be surprising. Employees with an ESOP understand that they have a say in the future of their work and their company. They realize they stand to earn more money, so they’ll step up with suggestions about how to improve the work process.

Researchers also remind us that employers can increase retention by providing training on portable skills. If you invest in new robotics that cut the workforce, your employees will worry. It’s true that you won’t be able to continue your same employment levels. However, you can train the remaining employees on how to manage the robotics system. This kind of technical training won’t necessarily require a college degree. With this training, your employees will gain confidence and credentials that they will be able to carry to their next job.

Workers who lack college degrees no longer have the promise of lifetime employment in U.S. factories. You can offer them alternate routes to financial security through good training programs and ESOPs. At the same time, you’ll build a loyal workforce.