Revolutionizing Company Culture

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We all recognize that hiring and retaining qualified people is a significant issue facing all manufacturing companies. How does your company’s culture fit the workforce of today and tomorrow? I have heard numerous comments from companies stating, “These younger kids just don’t want to work,” or “We can’t find younger people that fit our organization.” Ask yourself one simple question: Is the problem them, or is it us?

The workforce of tomorrow is different than in generations past. They require more flexibility, independence, variety, and most importantly, they want to know what’s in it for them. The average worker today will have 14 different jobs in his or her lifetime.

As a human resource manager, my goal is to hire individuals that make a career with and retire from our company. It’s a great thought. But what are the strategies, tools and programs that can help create a culture that values and retains the very best.

In many households, both spouses work; their children have school events, sports and other activities. If people need to be more flexible, it’s likely their work environment must also be flexible.

Throughout the past 5 years we have implemented strategies, tools and programs that have helped create a “culture revolution” in our shop. The results have been significant, and most of all, our workforce is more flexible, motivated and engaged.

Flexible: Our people schedule their own hours, vacations and department requirements. They can leave early, come in late and make up hours based on departmental and personal needs. Most companies have adapted from traditional manufacturing to cellular manufacturing. If you haven’t, you’re behind the 8 ball. We have taken that theory to another level. Flexibility to us also means having a system to respond quickly to changing departmental and customer requirements.

Our employees go to where the work is. We have tool makers, quality inspectors and material handlers, among others, in our support departments that work in the production department every day.

We maintain a lean workforce. Many times we depend on these individuals to help when they can, and they really come through. People inherently want to be challenged to better themselves. We try to maximize the abilities of every employee by offering opportunities to learn new skills.

Motivated: In September 2005 we began using a tool called the Predictive Index (PI). Many thanks go to Chuck Tellas for bringing this tool to the PMPA Management Update Conference in 2003.

The PI is unlike any other aptitude test I have ever seen in that you can actually use it. PI has helped us identify the type of people we need for our organization. It has also helped us give people what they need to be successful.

We use PI in recruitment and selection, conflict resolution, training and development, organizational development and for organizational communication and decision making. Here are some of our results. Prior to using PI we would have to interview 18 people for one position; now we only interview seven people. Our retention on new hires prior to PI was 56.25 percent; now it’s 81.82 percent. Our turnover was 14 percent; it’s now less than 6 percent. Our annual cost savings for hiring the right people is estimated at $27,000 per year. Internal training programs used to take 2 to 3 years to get a person to a particular classification. Now it takes about 9 months. They are much more effective in less than half the training time. Most of all, our people are being better used, are happier and better understand themselves and those they work with.

Engaged: Incentives are an important tool—they have to be valuable for the company and for the employees. We implemented the W.M. Jackson Gainsharing system in March 2007, thanks to Fritz Aichele, president of Epco Products. This program gives the employees the opportunity to share in the gains the company makes. It provides incentive for continuous improvement, throughput, high efficiency and optimal labor use.

All of these tools are only a few examples. They may work for you or they may not. What can’t be denied is the need for companies to change their culture based on the needs of an ever-changing workforce. People are our most valuable asset; our competitive advantage is maximizing their strengths and talents. PI can help identify the things you can do to motivate them, make them want to come to work, do a good job and care about the company and the customer.

These are the strategies that we are implementing to make it through these challenging times. Our new company vision is simple: “Unity, empowerment, teamwork—the right people making the right decisions at the right time.” 