Unilever Manufacturing and Innovation: Real-Time Employee Engagement (7 months later)
Unilever Manufacturing and Innovation: Real-Time Employee Engagement
Unilever Manufacturing plant Kleve is 7 months into their journey:
“Before we started measuring employee engagement in real-time we were curious. What would make our employees press the red button?” says management at Unilever Kleve.
“Now we know!”
“7 months ago we installed our Celpax devices to start acting on our employee engagement in real-time. We decided to use our production meetings to discuss how we are feeling at work”, says Katharina Brinkmann, HR Officer at Unilever Kleve.
“We sit down with smaller groups every three weeks.”
Together with Eugene Kusse, the Factory Manager, she pulled out a chair at one of their meetings and simply asked their coworkers in the room:
What makes you press green or red?
What kind of company is Unilever? We show we care
“I think that if you’re discussing a lot about what happened then employees use the direct feedback system more.“
“If you don’t talk about the Celpax results then employees think that you’re not interested. Or that management isn’t listening. So they press the buttons less” says Katharina.
What kind of company is Unilever?
The type that cares about their manufacturer workers having better workdays.
Weekends are usually very green, but then one Saturday…
“We typically see a very high employee mood during the weekend shifts. Possibly because there is no line manager”, Katharina laughs.
“Suddenly we had a Saturday where almost everyone in the factory pressed red, which surprised us a lot. We were curious and asked why – what happened that day?“
“Our coworkers responded that their day had been full of problems. The machines weren’t working 100% and it was a very stressful day. They even had to call the line manager to the factory!“
“For me as HR and for management, this event is very interesting to analyze” she adds.
Unilever leadership competencies: Our employees show us how to have ‘greener’ days
“At the moment our employee morale is very good at our manufacturing site.“
“Our employees are very interested in having good workdays. So they want to show us if the day isn’t so good by pressing red, so maybe we can change something.”
This way problems get seen more clearly according to the German HR Officer.
How Unilever Kleve keeps the discussions flowing
Unilever uses production meetings to keep the discussions flowing:
“We try to speak very often with employees to get their input based on what we have seen on the device. We discuss how the last month went, etc.” says Katharina.
“Sometimes we see a very high participation, sometimes a bit less. We also see how the employee mood rises around bank holidays”, the HR Officer says with a playful look.
“At the beginning when we started with Celpax we had one or two people who said things like “is it so helpful that I press this button every day?”. What we see now is that people just use it. As simple as that…“
“We always have good discussions when talking to our employees about why they press green or red. We are very happy and positive about that!”, Katharina says enthusiastically.
Weekly ‘hard HR facts’ at Management meetings
At Unilever Kleve they also discuss the results in their weekly management meetings:
“I think it’s important” Katharina emphasizes with a determined look.
“We discuss the weekly findings every Monday. We try to dig deeper into why one day was redder than the other. We sometimes see that managers have a different opinion. But very often they are well informed. Most of the time they know why their colleagues are pressing green or red.“
“They always see trends or days and say – Aaah, I know what happened, this or that machine wasn’t working that day! Our managers tend to say the same thing as our coworkers on the factory floor” the HR Officer continues with a content smile.
Unilever manufacturing: Training and development
During week 20 in April Unilever’s manufacturing plant had a lot of red pulses:
“People were gearing up for the following week’s repair session. They were under a lot of stress, even when we halted the production.”
“The repair week itself is normally very green. This is because our workforce focuses on improving and repairing the machines. They work 8-16 instead of our normal harder shifts.“
The managers at Unilever clearly saw the big differences in Employee Mood between these weeks. This helped them learn more about what creates more stress among their people.
“This is interesting for future comparisons on how our employee engagement is affected. And also for training and development”, says Katharina.
The online dashboard where Katharina checks how her colleagues feel around their “Repair week” in their workplace
How is our Employee Engagement? Check the screens in the factory!
“Every Monday I show a graph of last week”, Katharina says and points to the TV screens in the factory. They display various Unilever KPI’s, not only related to manufacturing.
On the screens, all staff are shown the Employee Mood KPI for every workday.
“It’s an easy way for our employees to get an overview. Independently if they’re in the kitchen or at the entrance, they feel informed about what’s going on at Unilever”, she concludes.
So what makes employees at Unilever Kleve press red?
Ever since that first day when Katharina pulled out a chair at the production meeting, the employee feedback has been pretty unanimous:
“Thanks to the Celpax we found out that our red pulses are mostly directly connected to the production levels here at the manufacturing site. This was a big relief for me and Eugene, our Factory Manager.”
The managers often get the comment that the employee mood is related to if the machines are running smoothly.
“Sometimes we get big orders. When there’s lots of work and lots of stress our employees don’t feel as good and press red.“
“Measuring this is actually a good sign for us. This way we have been able to verify that a lot of employees feel very involved in their work”, the HR Officer concludes with a contagious smile.
“The Celpax is a good instrument to stay on top of employee engagement in a practical way in manufacturing. It helps us at work towards training and development at Unilever”.
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