How to Motivate Employees on a Production Line

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Democracy on the factory floor can be a motivator.
Democracy on the factory floor can be a motivator. (Image: Felipe Dupouy/Lifesize/Getty Images)

There are so many good ways to motivate production workers that in most companies it shouldn't be hard to do. As long as the production area at your place is safe, clean, well organized and well lighted, you're starting with a solid foundation for good morale. The remaining factors that determine worker satisfaction are mainly economic and psychological. And almost any good manager is in position to use any number of effective motivational strategies.

Make sure your production workers are adequately paid and have a chance to earn more. Money is the main reason they're working. If each worker has a chance to move within the company to a better job that pays more money, that can be an incentive.

Provide, whenever possible, opportunities for workers to be on piece-work. Under that system, each job, such as stamping sheets of metal, has a rating. The rating for the metal-stamping job might be 120 pieces per hour. A worker makes extra money by exceeding the rate, by stamping more than 120 sheets of metal in any hour. An entire assembly line can be put on piece-work. One caution: You have to have good quality-control procedures in place when workers are on piece-work. You want to make sure that in working fast to beat the rate they don't do sloppy work.

Praise good work. Praise lets employees know that important contributions and quality performances are valued. And that, in turn, makes employees appreciate that they are valued.

Make sure that anyone who supervises your production workers is fair, reasonable and understands the work that is being done. Few things make for worse morale than a bad boss. And bad bosses aren't limited to those who bully workers. A supervisor who can't help workers when they have a job-related problem can be frustrating for workers.

Do whatever you can to prevent workers from having an "us versus them" view of the company, with "us" being the workers and "them" being management. One way to prevent such a division is by empowering your workers as much as possible. Let them make decisions about how they do certain things. Many companies have employee ownership programs and other special programs under which employees can buy stock. Such programs can help prevent an "us versus them" climate.

Realize that production workers know more about the jobs they are doing than anyone else. Whenever a production worker has suggestions for improving production procedures, pay serious attention, and let the worker know that you are taking the suggestion seriously.

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