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Retaining Your Number One Asset: Employees

Mon, 06/17/2013 - 10:19am
Maria Ferrante, Vice President, Education & Workforce Development, PMMI

How organizational restructuring can improve the retention of valuable employees in an organization

There is one absolute that applies to every company, independent of industry: You cannot expect to operate efficiently without dedicated and skilled employees. When looking at the manufacturing industry specifically, finding a highly skilled workforce has proven to be one of the greatest challenges. With such a limited amount of talent in the applicant pool, companies are left to compete for the best employees. Then, once the best employees are brought into the fold, the challenge becomes keeping them and further growing their skills.

While consumer goods companies have proactively worked with educational and industry associations to build or leverage programs that help to prepare and develop talent, the solution to improving retention rates often lies with the manufacturer in the creation of internal protocol and programs designed to cultivate, engage and advance their workforce.

Empowering Your Employees

An effective way to retain employees and cultivate talent in an organization is to give them autonomy in the decision-making process. In a manufacturing setting, the ability to think on one’s own is critical. Allowing employees to solve issues within a given timeframe fosters self-education and fosters a sense of empowerment. It also sets the tone for a collaborative environment in general.

Mentorship and reverse-mentorship are also critical aspects for keeping employees engaged. Experienced employees can hand down their knowledge while learning from incoming Generation Y-ers — who are as eager to teach as they are to learn and can offer valuable insights on technology as well as fresh ideas.

Continued learning through formal training programs is another way to cultivate talent. Industry associations offer educational programing – PMMI’s Mechatronics Certificate program is one example – that verify the new skills acquired by workers to help them advance through the ranks.

Changing the Model

As Generation Y moves to displace Baby Boomers as the largest segment of the U.S. population, manufacturing operations models must shift to accommodate their interests and ambitions. Currently, the majority of manufacturers still operate on a system of “command and control.” Such a model is off-putting for a Generation Y employee that thrives in a flexible and empowering workplace.

In order to effectively retain a Generation Y workforce, the model must be contrary to their perceptions of manufacturing as a non-essential part of the economy by giving them opportunities for growth and stimulating them in ways that offset what might be considered monotonous work.  One effective way to do this is to build an integrated operating system that allows the next generation workforce to make decisions that support strategic business objectives, set performance targets linked to specific plans, develop leaders and teams, and execute standardized processes and continuous improvement.

Nurturing Talent through Teamwork

Employee talent is essential to drive product and process innovation and move projects through to completion. And when it comes to resolving the challenges that will inevitably present themselves along the way, two heads are often better than one.

When companies take a team approach to addressing issues or embarking on new projects, they bring their workers together in a way that fosters camaraderie, learning and a greater understanding and appreciation for the work others do. For example, the introduction of a new product line requires many changes along processing and packaging operations as well as branding and marketing strategy. The best way to ensure a smooth rollout is to bring these parties together at the start. Early discussions on where processing and packaging lines may dovetail, what packaging formats work best, and how the new line should contribute to the company’s overall sustainability goals, etc. will help prevent issues further along the journey to market when mistakes get very costly. Events, such as PACK EXPO Las Vegas 2013 (September 23-25; Las Vegas Convention Center) encourage this team approach by making it easy for professionals across the manufacturing line discover processing and packaging innovation all in one place.


For more information about PMMI’s educational programs, visit www.pmmi.org; to learn about and register for PACK EXPO Las Vegas 2013, visit www.packexpo.com.

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