When I wrote my editorial column for last month’s issue of Food Engineering, it was two weeks before our annual Food Automation & Manufacturing Conference. In that column, I stressed the ongoing importance of employee engagement and paying qualified plant floor workers a fair wage.

At the time I wrote the column, I had no idea employee engagement would be the major theme of the speakers’ presentations at our conference. In fact, nearly all the covered topics, from sustainability, automation and manufacturing excellence to food safety, sanitary design and maintenance, resonated with the theme that all workers need to feel appreciated and valued by their employers.

After so many years of the food and beverage industry wrestling with hiring and retaining quality plant floor workers, I think we may be finally getting it right. When the proper workplace atmosphere is achieved, employee engagement soars and so does productivity.

Some of the leading suggestions from FA&M concerning employee engagement include:

  • Reviewing the number of tasks employees are assigned
  • Removing obstacles to staff performance
  • Understanding how employees react to certain manufacturing situations
  • Creating clear procedures
  • Showing true concern and care for employees at an interpersonal level, and
  • Challenging staff members to work to the best of their ability.

FA&M 2016’s Keynote Speaker, Gregg Stedronksy of General Mills, hit the nail on the head when he ended his presentation by telling the 250+ conference attendees, “You are not in the food business; you are in the people business.”

Everyone appreciates hearing the words “thank you” and “great job.” So, if you are not already showing and telling your employees that they matter to you and your corporation, start doing it today.

To view select sessions from FA&M 2016, please visit www.foodautomationconference.com, and click on Broadcasting Live at the top of the web page.