Employee disengagement often stems from a lack of understanding their impact. Creating a sense of purpose for every employee from top to bottom gives them a sense of purpose and pride in their work.

“Often disengagement stems from a lack of understanding of one’s role in the enterprise,” said Patricia Richards, vice-president of organization development and staffing, Hearthside Foods Solutions. “Connecting someone’s work with the overall mission, and providing a sense of the value of that work, as well the impact doing it well can generate, enables individuals to connect with and emotionally invest in their company.”

The American Bakers Association’s Cookie and Cracker academy offers e-learning to build technical training for line workers, which gives employees a better understanding of the industry and their specific job.

“While developing their career skills, they learn that technical education, and it gives them a greater understanding about what their role is in the production of a company’s product,” said Mike Goscinski, director of government relations, A.B.A.

The association also goes out to bakery facilities to do hands-on training. Mr. Goscinski said bakeries of all sizes are open to doing this because it helps build that one-on-one personal interaction, and it shows that they are invested in their workers.

BEMA-U is people-focused education, and cross-training is an intensive part of that. The program provides consultative services catered to the specific needs of a company. In addition to contributing to the cross-training process, BEMA-U provides a hands-on Learn-to-Train course for anyone who trains other people. Emily Bowers, senior director, education and operations, BEMA, said that by developing training checklists and procedures, engaging employees in conversations and in the actual cross-training of others, they will have a personal connection to the process and an investment in its success.

Investing in employees has tangible and intangible benefits. Paul Chan, president of Kresent Plus, said he has seen his workers take ownership of their areas of the line, whether that be in management, sanitation or equipment.

“They are not afraid to have meaningful discussions with someone at my level or one of their peers,” said Mr. Chan. “Things get solved faster, and many times we are using that person’s ideas, thoughts and methods first, so there is much more buy-in, and they take the ball and run with it.”

To further empower workers, Kresent Plus explains to all employees that they are the process or equipment experts because they have first-hand experience on the line, day after day. Each person can provide input on standard operating procedures. Mr. Chan said this develops a natural sense of pride in the work they do.

That sense of ownership is what creates leaders. Dennis Smith, general manager, Arizona, of Doughnut Peddler said the bakery has ongoing training programs, and they are a key element of developing the necessary knowledge to lead.

“I encourage managers and supervisors to always be on the lookout for leaders,” he added. “When we identify those employees, we start teaching leadership skills and giving more responsibility, which creates pride in accomplishments and develops a different perspective of ownership.”