An independent audit of UK engineering has found that although the profession compares favourably with the wider workforce, more could be done in some quarters to support ethical behaviour.
Ethical, people-centred business practice is a key measure of any successful, high-performing organisation. However, as Senior Manufacturing Advisor Geoff Crossley explained in a previous blog on how to build compassion into the workplace, manufacturers sometimes lag behind in this area:
“The difficulties many manufacturers face with productivity are less to do with technology and production, and more to do with people management. A workplace without empathy and compassion, where there is little effort on the part of managers or decision makers to meaningfully connect with their employees, leads to people feeling de-humanised, undervalued and unmotivated.
“By getting involved and talking to staff on the shop floor, about how they are feeling, about how they think things could improve, you build a better understanding of your business and your staff. Simply listening and understanding their position can go a long way to helping people feel appreciated, which in turn leads to them feeling happier in work and more committed to the organisation.”
The Royal Academy of Engineering commissioned a survey of more than 2,000 individuals, companies and professional institutions to ask about their experience of ethical practice in their sector.
While 80 per cent of the engineers surveyed said their organisation had a strong ethical culture and operating responsibly was a priority, some said their company culture dissuaded them from raising bad news or concerns in the workplace.
For example, one third said the work they undertake sometimes makes them feel ethically compromised. More than two fifths (44 per cent) said profitability is sometimes prioritised over fitness-for-purpose, while 35 per cent said they are asked to take shortcuts they feel are unacceptable.
Furthermore, engineers working in smaller firms tend to feel less supported than those working for larger companies.
Improved people management can yield significant benefits. For example, following support from Growth Hub advisors during the pandemic, Manchester-based steel fabrication manufacturer Thomas Storey ‘reset’ its company culture to create an ethos of continuous improvement.
Technical Director Phil Ramsdale explained:
“We had grown very quickly by always putting the customer first. But as our production schedules grew it became more and more difficult to maintain and we took our eyes off the ball in other areas like our people and processes. I turned to the Growth Hub and they really just brought us back to the basics.
“We brought in a full-time HR manager and formed an operations committee to look at things like our wage structure, working conditions and benefits… People really want to work here now.”