COMPANIES did better if they listened to their employees and gave them opportunities to contribute, a manufacturing forum in Newcastle heard on Friday.
The forum organised by University of Melbourne’s Centre for Workplace Leadership was held in conjunction with a federal agency, Manufacturing Skills Australia.
Hunter Research Foundation senior research fellow Jenny Williams previewed the foundation’s Manufacturing Our Future project, which will be formally presented at its next quarterly economic breakfast on Friday, November 28.
Ms Williams said manufacturing in the Hunter had slipped since the steelworks closed in 1999 and was now the fourth most-important sector, accounting for 9 per cent of the economy.
She said the still-strong Australian dollar and the end of the mining boom was a ‘‘double whammy’’ for the sector.
Dr Brigid van Wanrooy from the Centre for Workplace Leadership said the federal Department of Industry had commissioned the centre to look at high-performance work practices in manufacturing.
Global evidence showed that employee-friendly ‘‘high performance work practices’’ helped companies become sustainably profitable, and while most companies were using some of the practices, there was still a way to go.
Steve Grlyak of Western Sydney engineering firm C-Mac Industries (Aust) told the forum how the company had improved its fortunes by listening to the wisdom of its employees.
Mr Grlyak said that even though C-Mac had prospered from the sorts of employee-driven innovations being discussed at the forum, the manufacturing sector as a whole was facing major difficulties.
The forum attracted about 20 people at Newcastle City Hall. More information is available at www.workplaceleadership.com.au.
C-Mac’s case study is at cmac.com.au.