Report highlights the need for better employee engagement

New research from Microsoft Australia released today shows that manufacturing firstline workers – the people who create and build products – and business managers are facing similar workplace pressures.

In an online survey commissioned by Microsoft and conducted by research firm, YouGov, over 1,000 working adults employed in four industry sectors – health, retail, manufacturing and public sector –were surveyed.

The research revealed that firstline workers and business managers experience the same challenges and pressures in the workplace.

More than three quarters of firstline worker respondents (78 per cent) identified meeting deadlines as one of the most significant pressures in the workplace, this was even higher for business managers with 82 per cent under pressure to deliver work on time. 63 per cent of firstline workers identified financial performance as a significant workplace pressure, with almost three quarters of business managers (74 per cent) agreeing they are under pressure to meet bottom line profits.

Three quarters of business managers (75 per cent) are under pressure to strike a good work life balance with 60 per cent of firstline workers agreeing.

The research further reveals firstline workers and business managers share the same top three business priorities including growing their skill set, improving workplace culture and enhancing customer experience. More than half of firstline workers (54 per cent) identified growing their skill set as the top business priority compared to 39 per cent of business managers. This was followed by improving workplace culture expressed by 40 per cent of firstline workers and 39 per cent of business managers and improving customer experience, which was identified by 35 per cent of both firstline workers and business managers.

“The survey follows a similar report conducted last year by Microsoft, which highlighted the opportunities for employers in better engaging with their employees. Last year’s survey showed that the workers, particularly in the manufacturing environment, were eager to be more involved in the digital transformation of their organisations. This year’s report looks at the effects of this disconnect between the business managers and firstline workers. It also investigates the role of technology in the firsline workers’ day-to-day activities,” Ian Heard, Modern Workplace Lead, Microsoft Australia told Manufacturers’ Monthly.


Despite efforts to create a more engaged firstline, the research reveals almost a quarter of firstline workers (22 per cent) are committed but not engaged in their current role, 21 per cent of business managers felt the same.

“Employee engagement goes right to the heart of a business and does not just makes a business unique, but also successful. A productive manufacturing sector driven by an engaged, collaborative and connected workforce will provide a catalyst for economic growth. At Microsoft, we empower firstline workers by providing them with digital tools to exercise greater creative and strategic freedom, bringing real value to their work. Organisations which create an engaged, connected and collaborative workforce will be better poised for success in the long-term by promoting a productive workforce,” Heard said.

More than half of manufacturing respondents (51 per cent) – both firstline workers and business managers – agree that their organisation provides limited access to the latest technologies including devices in the workplace. On the other hand, 45 per cent of both firstline workers and business managers agree that access to devices will boost employee engagement and satisfaction in the workplace.

Furthermore, the research reveals a key to alleviating workplace pressures in the manufacturing sector is clearer communication from leadership, with almost half of firstline workers (42 per cent) citing the need for streamlined communication.

The findings of this research coincide with the launch of new capabilities into Microsoft’s digital platform, Microsoft Teams. The new features facilitate streamlined communication and collaboration between business managers and firstline workers. This includes Shifts, a new feature which enables managers to create schedules and employees to swap shifts and request time off. Manufacturing workers will also have access to Teams via a mobile app, giving them access to rostering, to-do lists and important organisation-wide announcements.

“While traditionally the business owners were under the perception that providing the firstline workers with access to technology would be too costly, these days most workers do have access to smart phones. This means that the companies can use the features in Microsoft Team applications to provide their team with real-time updates and trainings, without having to spend hugely on the hardware,” Heard said.

Furthermore, 40 per cent of firstline workers and 42 per cent of business managers cited the need for greater access to training as a key measure to alleviate workplace pressure.

This is supported by the launch of new live and on-demand events, now generally available in Microsoft 365 enabling staff to create and stream events including training sessions in Microsoft Stream, Teams, or Yammer informing and engaging employees from the firstline to management.

“In the old days, there were bulletin boards where the teams could see the latest notices. Yammer digitises the traditional bulletin board and makes it easy to build a culture of transparency in the company. Using Yammer, the managers can easily announce information, such as the changes in the health and safety regulations or the changes in training requirements to the firstline workers,” Heard explained.