Editorial


 

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There Are Sparks Among Your Workforce--Find Them, and Fuel Them

By: Brad Kuvin

Thursday, November 01, 2012
 

If we don’t start developing our people, we won’t have people. That’s one pearl of wisdom among many I retrieved upon a recent voyage to The Diemasters Manufacturing Inc., an Elk Grove Village, IL, manufacturer of tooling, fabricated and stamped parts and assemblies. Having studied closely the Theory of Constraints, managers there have focused on what they consider a primary—if not the primary—constraint to improved productivity and profitability: workforce development.

At Diemasters, managers have developed a thorough training system (yes it’s a system, not just a program) that is perhaps the most thorough approach to workforce development I have ever witnessed. And key to the sustainability of its training efforts, according to company president Virgil Delay:

“We’re looking for more employees to work on the system, not just in the system.”

Now this seemingly simple statement takes on a much deeper meaning as you analyze the difference between two simple words—“on” and “in.” My interpretation: Employees who are motivated—personally or perhaps from management prodding—to work on the system will be invested in the system, and therefore more likely to embrace its impact on them. That is, the need to undergo constant, consistent training and development.

Why is this subtle wordplay critical, not only to The Diemasters but to our entire industry? Consider recent findings from the American Psychological Association (APA):

More than 90 percent of workers who feel “valued” say they are motivated to perform their best; 88 percent say they feel “engaged.” Says one APA executive:

“Forward-thinking employers are taking steps to create a positive organizational culture where employees feel valued and, in turn, help drive bottom-line results.”

A look around our industry will reveal a slew of labor-starved companies, due in part to a lack of skilled workers, as well as to a hesitation to add workers in a fragile economy. It’s easy for employees in this environment to feel overworked and underappreciated.

Don’t let that happen at your company. Here’s an abbreviated HR checklist, courtesy of labor-and-employment law firm Fisher & Phillips, to help you engage your workers and ensure they remain properly motivated and positive about their jobs:

• Encourage employees to express opinions and ideas, and make sure managers listen.

• Ensure managers focus on developing their team members, and provide workers with positive feedback and reinforcement.

• Encourage managers to walk around the plant floor and make themselves available for interaction.

One last quote, from outplacement-consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.:

“Retention is not merely a matter of salary hikes and fancy perks; it’s about taking steps to ensure that employees feel valued and challenged, and that their contributions impact the bottom line.

 


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