Donna K. Komlofske, Office Manager, Woven Metal Products
You’ve probably heard, “Employees are a company’s most valuable asset.” But what does that mean when you break it down?
To put it in perspective, the cost of losing just one hourly worker earning $14/hour is over $4,500, according to the Center for American Progress. And on average, industrial jobs have a turnover rate of 20%.
The costs to replace lost workers can add up, which is why it’s so important to retain employees. At Woven Metal Products, our employees are more that, they are team members, and our team mentality is helping us grow a positive workplace culture. Here are some tips from my 16 years of experience in the fabricating industry, supporting our company leadership and team members — both skilled hourly workers and traditional professionals — as an office manager.
Connect with your team on a human level.
Recognizing the person behind the job is an important part of building team culture. In EmployBridge’s 2020 “Voice of the Blue Collar” survey, 74% of workers said “being treated with respect or as a valued employee, not just a number” was extremely important for a good work culture. And “honesty and respect” was the top reason for staying with an employer.
I try to find opportunities to ask our team members about their lives outside work. People love to talk about themselves, their families, and their interests, and it’s that human connection that can help drive loyalty and belonging.
Expand empathy, in action and policy.
Nearly a quarter of respondents (23%) in the 2020 “Voice of the Blue Collar” survey said their employer could be more in touch by “understanding our challenges outside work.”
Any time missed for medical appointments and family or other emergencies can influence an hourly employee’s paycheck. Supervisors should work to have an environment of empathy for these unexpected emergencies and create an approachable atmosphere to help alleviate those concerns.
In the same vein, I’ve found it advantageous to better understand workers’ roles outside my immediate team. For example, have your office team visit your shop floor to see the skilled labor required to make the products clients have ordered, or stop by other departments such as shipping/receiving and maintenance to see their work in action.
This allows all team members to see how everyone’s jobs are connected and understand the challenges and processes involved. You may learn something that will inform your job and help you create more efficiency at the front end of a manufacturing project.
Appreciation goes a long way.
Earlier this month, we celebrated Employee Appreciation Day, and our team members were treated to a surprise breakfast. It’s great to acknowledge your team’s work on recognition days like these, but we try to acknowledge a job well done year-round, as it should always be a priority. For our Woven Metal Products team, we do this through monthly gift card awards to recognize great work, quarterly lunches and other celebration activities and incentives.
It’s human nature to appreciate praise, and managers should look for opportunities to give positive feedback in addition to correction. Our shop team leaders are adopting a mentality of coaching vs. correcting, and it’s helping build a team atmosphere where it’s safe to learn from mistakes.
Invite feedback…and expect it.
The “Voice of the Blue Collar” survey revealed another top way to connect with hourly workers: ask them for suggestions (according to 33% of respondents). Supervisors should encourage feedback and follow through on acknowledging it, even if it’s a change more likely for the future. The point is to create an environment and mechanisms that allow for feedback. That could be through surveys, physical and digital suggestion boxes, or regular meetings with leadership.
Education and training go a long way.
I’m not just talking about job skills training, although offering cross skills training is a great way to expose your team to different career paths within your organization. At Woven Metal Products, we’ve made it a priority to educate our team members on all aspects of their job, which includes benefits.
We have found that some team members may not realize the importance of what we offer, like 401(k)-matching and a health savings plan option, among other benefits. That’s why we provide an annual review with a professional financial advisor for each team member during their paid working hours, so they can better understand their investment options and progress. We also offer training sessions on how to make the most of medical benefits, demystifying HSA plans and more. This type of education is a small way to make life outside of the job easier, which makes life at work better.
Overall, the more personal connections we make with our workforce only helps us grow a stronger purpose to do great work together. Having empathy, showing appreciation, inviting feedback and educating your team can help grow a positive work culture.