Employee Engagement: Hearing The Vocal Minority AND Silent Majority

The Issue

A small auto parts manufacturer had just dodged another union campaign and knew that another one would occur in a couple of years if nothing were done.  Given their isolated geographic location, employee turnover was never an issue.  Employees felt that there was no other place to go.  This, however, did not necessarily lead to high levels of employee engagement. While the labor problems were focused on a small minority of employees for now, they were a vocal minority with growing influence with other employees.

What We Did

While management was well aware of the issues voiced by the vocal minority they were unsure of the level of discontent with the silent majority. An employee survey was designed to assess the level of employee engagement across all employees and to determine key areas for improvement.

The Results

The employee survey revealed that the primary issue that employees had with the company was a lack of trust in current management.  While this was not in and of itself that surprising they were uncertain how to remedy the situation.  Fortunately, the survey also highlighted several specific areas where management’s actions could help restore the trust – improved communications, more cross training opportunities, and, most importantly, more 401(k) investment options.

Given that most employees were planning on staying with the company until they retired, the 401(k) plan was critical.  In fact, most employees were satisfied with the plan per se, but they wanted more local investment options.  The company was able to add these options at very low cost.

All of the action plans actually required very little investment by the company but they had a big payoff in keeping the company union free.