For several decades, the lack of a highly skilled workforce has been a major obstacle to improving food and beverage manufacturing performance. In recent years, more training courses and college-level educational programs have become available to address the problem, but one of the key ways to improve plant performance is through employee engagement. 

A few months ago, the Alliance for Innovation & Operational Excellence (AIOE), a peer group sponsored by PMMI and dedicated to improving performance of CPG manufacturers and their suppliers by developing non-proprietary solutions to common production and operational challenges, began a series of ongoing meetings to create framework documents and guidelines to create employee engagement.

This AIOE Workforce Development Group is defining beginner, intermediate and advanced attributes of employee engagement behaviors and will include real-life, plant floor examples of employee success. The project will also include leadership/supervisory guidance for various plant floor situations, such as when supervisors should delegate, coach and get out of the way, or encourage employees and require employee proactive thought and action.

For example, a traditional worker may notice a problem but not report it because he or she thinks no one wants to hear about it. In contrast, an employee at the beginner level of engagement would tell his or her leader about the problem and ask how to resolve it. At the intermediate engagement level, the employee would inform the leader and begin a resolution process. An employee at the advanced engagement level would resolve the problem within his or her team without input or action by a team leader.

According to the work group, engagement begins when employees are empowered to:

•             Take responsibility

•             Hold themselves and others responsible

•             Make decisions

•             Lead

•             Give input and challenge the cultural norm

•             Take risks

•             Take action

•             Take initiative

•             Be flexible.


According to the Developing & Engaging the Manufacturing Workforce report written last year by Booz & Company for the AIOE Manufacturing Excellence Share Group, consumer goods manufacturers are confronting a difficult operating environment characterized by controlling costs, adapting to new regulations, serving changing consumer tastes and managing supply chain complexity.  Plus, as today’s workforce retires and the younger generation shows little interest in manufacturing careers, the path for CPGs to succeed becomes even more challenging.

“The upcoming generational turnover presents an opportunity to transform the consumer goods manufacturing operating model from one dominated by a culture of command  and control to a more collaborative model where workforce development and engagement are essential components driving productivity and growth,” states the report. “This 21st century operating model would offer workers a factory environment in which they have more autonomy and independence; are involved in greater team efforts; are rewarded for reaching performance targets; and are encouraged to be the leaders of plant and operational improvement efforts.”

According to a 2011 study by consulting firm Aon Hewitt, an engaged workforce also produces financial success. This study says there is a strong correlation between employee engagement and financial performance, even in turbulent financial times. Organizations with high levels of engagement (65 percent or greater), the report states, continue to outperform the total stock market index and posted total shareholder returns 22 percent higher than average in 2010. In contrast, companies with low engagement (45 percent or less) had a total shareholder return 28 percent lower than the average.

The AIOE Workforce Development Group is creating guidelines to help CPG companies develop an engaged workforce culture based on integrity, trust, respect, accountability and teamwork. Current members of this group include General Mills, Campbell Soup, Snyder’s-Lance, Hormel and Sunny Delight Beverages Co.

 For more information about AIOE’s work groups, visit