Redefining HR’s Role in the Manufacturing Industry

Company culture impacts nearly everything in your business. Take time to invest in it.

It’s no secret that one of the largest challenges in manufacturing today is workforce development. Specifically, recruiting and retaining high-quality employees who fit and thrive within a company’s culture is an issue for businesses of all sizes.

My family started a manufacturing business in the mid-1990s when I was in elementary school. From that early age, I had the incredible opportunity to be exposed to all facets of the business and learned many valuable lessons over the years. The most important lesson is to have empathy for and accommodate the challenges of your team members. In our business, this means our attitude and approach with our employees is aligned with our company’s attitude and approach with our customers. I’ve learned that without the right employees, your customers will not have the experience you want to create for them. 

Our customer experience goal is to continuously deliver “ridiculously good customer service.” In parallel, our employee experience goal is to be a “ridiculously good place to work.” We strive to treat our employees with the same high standards we deliver to our customers, and we’ve seen this approach drive value across all facets of our business. 

Look Beyond Paper

We start by looking for prospective team members who are committed and hungry for growth. We seek employees who don’t want to fade into the crowd or be treated like a number. And we look beyond what is on paper to find the best fit. You won’t find candidate scorecards or traditional evaluation metrics in any of our interviews or hiring meetings. 

Once an individual joins our team, we focus on creating an exceptional onboarding experience. We seek to understand each team member’s goals and dreams and we explain that our goal is to improve their lives in any way we can. I make it a priority to meet with each new team member, and I give all team members my personal cell phone number. I want them to know they can reach me if their questions or challenges aren’t being addressed elsewhere.

We ask employees to be self-driven and self-directed in many ways. Part of this is because we maintain a flat management structure and believe it’s important to avoid the heavy middle management structure typical of much of the manufacturing sector. We use an accelerated, merit-based pay raise system that breaks from the industry norm of structured, incremental pay brackets. We do maintain broad pay policies so workers know what is possible, but we also strive not to limit people’s ideas of what they can contribute to the company. As team members grow into their roles, we offer mentorship, location exchange, and personal development programs. We start each performance meeting with a review of annual goals, both professional and personal. And each year, we host a personal finance training program. We take great pride in the fact that more than 80 percent of surveyed employees say that Morrison Industries is the best place they’ve ever worked. 

More than 90 percent of our supervisors are people who have grown into those roles from other places in the company. This aligns with our purpose of improving the lives of the people on our teams and creates a domino effect with a cascade of promotions. We go outside only if the company needs a talent or expertise we don’t have internally. It gives people who join at the entry level a view of the opportunities in front of them and examples of supervisors with a lot of credibility.

Results

This approach has fueled the growth of our workforce from 50 team members in 2011 to more than 200 team members today, and it enabled us to open a second location and expand the company’s national footprint. Our turnover rate is well below the industry average, and employee engagement numbers are consistently high. The company is transformed with a stronger, faster team and a customer experience driven by employees regularly going above and beyond the call of duty to give our customers what they need, when they need it. 

From my early days on the shop floor to running the business and leading Morrison Industries’ ongoing growth, one thing is clear: Company culture impacts nearly everything in your business. Take time to invest in it.

Jacob Wilson is the CEO of Morrison Industries, a large-scale fabrication business and leading maker of specialized shipping racks for the automotive industry. He has served as CEO since 2011 and has overseen significant growth of the company, increasing its annual revenue from $11 million in 2011 to an annual average of $25 million over the last three years.

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