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7 Insights Into Factory Workers’ Experiences From Our “Voice of the Essential Manufacturing Worker” Report

We recently surveyed 600 frontline factory workers for our “Voice of the Essential Manufacturing Worker” report. Here’s what we learned.

February 22, 2023


As the foundation of production, manufacturing is a thriving industry. Yet it also faces challenges, like higher regulations, supply chain disruptions, increased consumer demand, and economic uncertainty.

How do these issues impact factory workers? And how can manufacturing leaders better understand their workers, so that they can implement policies and initiatives to enable their best work?

We recently surveyed 600 frontline factory workers for our "Voice of the Essential Manufacturing Worker" report. A significant look into their daily successes, challenges, and requests, it offers manufacturing leaders a unique opportunity to improve their workers’ experience—and build even better businesses. 

Here's what we learned.

1. 52% say morale at their current company is high

Morale is a key contributor to worker engagement, enjoyment, retention, lowered stress levels, and other positives that allow workers to do their best work and want to come to work everyday. Yet only half of factory workers say morale is high at their company. 41% say the morale is only average at their company, while 7% say it’s low.

Those who say morale is high attribute it to having flexible work schedules, more paid time off, and receiving bonuses or higher pay. This shows that morale is directly tied to more income and better work/life balance.

2. The increased cost of raw materials is their biggest challenge

The biggest challenge factory workers face today is the rising cost of raw materials, which can impact a number of areas of their work. Rising costs means that they may not have the materials to actually work with, or may need to use different, lower-cost materials. Spending more on raw materials means budgets may be cut elsewhere as well.

Another challenge they face today are supply chain shortages, which are impacting businesses worldwide. They say that they're also challenged by their daily workload, with too many hours and too many tasks. 

3. Creating a better workplace includes more paid time off

What do they say their companies could do to create a better workplace for them? More paid time off was the top answer. This ties back to the first point, where respondents with high morale attributed it to having more paid time off. This also relates to one of their biggest challenges: workload, which may be preventing them from taking time off if there’s too much to do. If given more paid time off — or if encouraged to actually take the paid time off they already have — workers would think more favorably about their workplace.

They also say management can create a better workplace by offering flexible work schedules and non-monetary perks, listening to staff, and providing better tools and technology.

4. 80% say their company is making upskilling a priority

Manufacturing is an ever-evolving industry, especially as more technology gets incorporated into the process and operations become more digital. 80% of those we surveyed say that their companies are making upskilling a priority, and are making sure they have the skills to move forward into the future of manufacturing.

What are some of the upskilling initiatives that companies are offering? Factory workers say that their organizations are providing them with on-site and on-the-job training. They're also being given access to online training platforms to improve their skills. Many companies are also covering tuition for courses and training.

5. Only 48% say their company is “very modern”

Companies may be focusing on upskilling their employees, but are they focusing on modernizing their operations through digital technology, and advances like AI and machine learning? Not quite, as only half of factory workers said their company is "very modern." 47% say it’s “somewhat modern," and 6% say it’s “not very modern at all.”

Considering that 49% say their company has kept their investment in technology the same as in years past, and only 50% say their company is eager to embrace new technology, there's a lag or hesitancy to move fully into the future in manufacturing. Many companies are still adhering to manual processes — perhaps why one of the challenges to factory workers today is increased workloads.

6. 56% plan to leave their job in the next year

Are factory workers satisfied enough to stay at their current workplace? Some of them are. Yet a little over half say they plan to seek out a new job in the next twelve months.

What are they looking for in a new company? They want to seek out a new employer who offers more paid time off and flexible work schedules, two things that cause higher morale. They’re also seeking management that listens to their staff as well.

7. Technology-driven and sustainability-focused companies are important to them

Finally, factory workers care about the ways in which their manufacturing company approaches issues of sustainability and modernizing their technology, especially considering that only half call their company "very modern." In fact, six out of ten workers say they would take a pay cut to go work for a more technology-driven factory or a more sustainable factory.


Our "Voice of the Essential Manufacturing Worker" report gives voice to some of the positives and concerns about factory workers today—and what manufacturing leaders can do to improve the experience for their workers.