Employee engagement in manufacturing: Corporate vs. production workers

This blog post has been updated on July 12, 2022 to reflect new company data and solutions.

Culture matters. The ability for organizations in the manufacturing industry to assess culture is critical for keeping pace with rising stakeholder expectations, managing supply chain challenges, and updating regulatory guidance demanding it. An industry-specific segment of data from the LRN Benchmark of Ethical Culture reveals that manufacturing organizations have clear areas of strength and opportunities to improve their cultures. Additionally, the industry’s varied employee populations offer fascinating insights into the differences in how people experience corporate culture.  

It's not uncommon for over half of the manufacturing workforce to be on “the floor” in production roles, rather than sitting at a desk with a computer. These production workers are distinct from corporate employees in that they are often tenured and can be resistant to technological or cultural change, as well as other initiatives that could have a direct result on their operational efficiencies. But this does not mean that production employees don't care about working in an ethical environment.  

Data from the LRN Benchmark of Ethical Culture shows there are important gaps to bridge in the manufacturing industry to ensure that production employees operate in a work environment where they feel supported as much as corporate employees. Let's dig into some of the key findings, which can also be accessed in this infographic

Corporate and production workers in manufacturing value speaking up on ethical matters 

Within the data, we find that both corporate and production employees value areas of culture that involve speaking up when it comes to questions or concerns about ethical issues. Here are the statements that corporate employees ranked highest: 

  • People seek guidance if they're not sure of the right thing to do (82%) 
  • People in my company would speak out if they saw something unethical (80%) 
  • Our company values guide people's behavior (80%) 

The statements that production workers ranked highest are relatively similar:  

  • I would speak out if I saw or suspected misconduct occurring (74%) 
  • People in my company would speak out if they saw something unethical (72%) 
  • People seek guidance if they're not sure of the right thing to do (72%) 

What’s interesting is that among production workers, the highest-scoring areas of ethical culture are eight percentage points lower than the highest-rated areas for corporate employees. This could mean that while these matters are important to both populations, production employees may have a lower regard for the culture of their organizations across the board—signaling a potential area of focus as manufacturers look to improve their cultures. 

When it comes to acting on speaking up, production workers feel less empowered 

Although both employee populations agree that speaking up is of high importance to them, the data show that corporate and production employees differ greatly on feeling empowered to raise concerns. In fact, the areas of culture that had the largest difference between responses are related to speaking out and performance under pressure, both of which are highlighted as areas of opportunity for the manufacturing industry to improve overall. When looking at the results, we see how the percentages to which corporate vs. production workers agree diverge: 

I would feel comfortable raising concerns about unethical behavior to my manager 

  • Corporate: 75% agree 
  • Production: 57% agree 

People voice their opinions in team meetings, even in front of management 

  • Corporate: 79% agree 
  • Production: 65% agree 

People do not feel pressured to achieve short-term objectives of it means acting unethically 

  • Corporate: 72% agree 
  • Production: 58% agree 


There’s an opportunity to reinforce company values in manufacturing, especially with production workers  

Across the report’s survey statements, participants were given three response choices: agree, neutral, and disagree. Corporate employees’ neutral response rates ranged from a high of 18% and a low of 13% whereas production employees’ neutral responses ranged from a high of 28% to a low of 17%. Statements that garnered the largest difference in neutrality between corporate and production employees all revolved around the idea of turning to company values and ethical standards—especially when under pressure: 

My team puts our shared company goals above our individual team goals 

  • Corporate: 18% neutral 
  • Production: 28% neutral 

I would feel comfortable raising concerns about unethical behavior to my manager 

  • Corporate: 17% neutral 
  • Production: 27% neutral 

Even under pressure, people abide by our values and code of conduct 

  • Corporate: 18% neutral 
  • Production: 27% neutral 

People question decisions that don't seem to align with our values or ethical standards 

  • Corporate: 16% neutral 
  • Production: 25% neutral 

The difference in neutral responses could indicate a lack of engagement within the employee populations, something manufacturers have historically struggled with. According to the most recent Gallup report on The State of the American Workplaceemployee engagement rates in manufacturing are the lowest of any industry in the United States—only 25% of manufacturing employees are considered engaged. Reinforcing company values through training and communications materials could help overcome this potential engagement challenge among production employees.  

How to turn data on employee engagement in manufacturing into action 

The manufacturing employee respondents to the LRN Benchmark of Ethical Culture report offer an inside look at the state of culture in the industry, showcasing areas of cultural strength and opportunity as well as unveiled insight into cultural perceptions between employee populations. The research illustrates the undeniable gaps between corporate and production employees and provides data that identifies opportunity to bridge them.  

To view more data on culture in manufacturing, download the infographic. And to learn how to measure culture and how it influences behavior, download the LRN Benchmark of Ethical Culture. This report compiles insights from nearly 8,000 employees at companies around the world, and provides a comprehensive look at the state of ethical culture—a key benchmark as you consider your own organization’s culture.