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By Rick Wilson, Missouri Enterprise Project Manager

We hear about the workforce problems of Missouri manufacturers every day, as they struggle to find the skilled labor they need, and fight to keep their good people on board.

It’s true that the labor pool needs more skilled individuals to fill critical manufacturing jobs, and competition among manufacturers sometimes has skilled people leaving one company in favor of another.  We also know many great manufacturers that simply aren’t having these issues.  They have waiting lists of qualified candidates, people who want to come work for them, and they have long employee tenures and high retention rates.  

What gives here?  It’s the same labor pool for those that are struggling with workforce issues and those who are finding the cream of the crop.  Why are some succeeding with their employees and others aren’t?  It’s a tough question without a single answer, but a big part of the answer is most certainly company culture, a sense of trust and the workplace environment that’s created and defined by leadership.

Here’s a telling statistic:  1 out of 2 adults surveyed left their job to get away from a manager!  (A 2015 Gallup study of 7,272 adults) These are people, HALF of them, who are so unhappy with their bosses that they leave their job to find greener pastures. When people leave because of a how they are treated, that word gets around town.  It happens time and time again, and is becoming a bigger issue with an aging manufacturing workforce and the loss of company knowledge.

How do you combat people leaving because of bad bosses?  You give them better authority figures and supervisors, and both you and your people gain the benefits.  But, good leadership doesn’t just happen.  You need to train your Managers, Supervisors, Lead Operators or anyone who has influence over others how to effectively manage people.  You need to show your leaders how to lead.

Great leaders at your company bring obvious benefits:

  • A happier, more satisfied workforce, which results in…
  • Greater employee loyalty and retention, which yields…
  • Higher quality and productivity, and…
  • Increased operational efficiency, and…
  • A positive work environment where people want to work, resulting in…
  • Higher bottom line profitability.

Missouri Enterprise is just one great resource that offers Leadership Training programs for Managers, Supervisors and Lead Operators to teach your supervisory staff important universal principles of leadership that will help them effectively lead and manage people.  The Missouri Enterprise workshops called, “Disciplines of Leadership – Advancing the Standards” are programs that can be done on-site and scheduled to work around a company’s production schedules.  The focus is on the foundation and building blocks of effective leadership and teaches that it’s just not about the ability to motivate a group toward a common goal – it’s the ability to cross over from being someone people must follow, to someone employees want to follow.  Key topics include:

  • The Role of the Manager
  • Model of Authority
  • Levels of Leadership
  • Characteristics that Build Credibility
  • Effective Communication
  • Effective Delegation & Time Management
  • Culture of an Organization
  • Handling Conflict & Conflict Resolution
  • Building Better Teams
  • Behavior Characteristics
  • Increasing Influence
  • Human Interaction

The Disciplines of Leadership program has been very well received and given glowing reviews.

The other big workforce issue is finding the right people and skills you need on your shop floor.  A significant part of this issue comes down to training.  Maybe you find a good person and hire them, then don’t give them the support they need to succeed.  That happens a lot, especially with small to medium sized manufacturers.  It’s not that employers don’t want to give the training people need to become an important part of their team, it’s that they don’t know how.  

A tried and true program to help manufacturers become experts at training their people is called TWI…Training Within Industry.  Missouri Enterprise is one of many resources that offers on staff, certified TWI instructors that can help your company become better at training, and therefore retaining, good employees.  It has a “Train the Trainer” approach, teaching critical concepts and skills to help your supervisors people become better at teaching your employees how to do critical functions at your company, clearly expressing tasks, techniques and expectations.

TWI was born in the United States in the 1940’s to fill the need to rapidly train unskilled workers entering the war production workforce.  The TWI principles are as sound today as they were back then.  TWI defines the five basic needs of a leaders as:  Knowledge of Work; Knowledge of Responsibility; Skill in Improving Methods; Skill in Instruction and Skill in Leading.  There are four essential methodologies of TWI.

  • Job Instruction.  JI teaches the four-step method and the five needs of good supervisors to help reduce training time, minimize waste and rework and improve job satisfaction, all in a safe workplace.

  • Job Relations.  JR shows supervisors how to build positive relationships with their employees to enhance motivation and cooperation, and effectively handle conflict.  It uses the process of:  Get the facts; weigh options; decide; take action; and check results.

  • Job Methods.  JM focuses on higher quality production in less time, and the efficient use of people, machines and material.  Teaches how to examine jobs and find areas for improvement.

  • Job Safety.  JS instructs trainees on identifying and analyzing safety hazards, job standardization, and communication.  The program instills thinking on systematic safety to dramatically reduce the occurrence of accidents while enhancing productivity.

Leadership Training and TWI are important tools that many manufacturers should take advantage of to help them with the problems of training and retaining good people.  Even more importantly, as a good leader of your company, maybe you should consider trying to stop saying, “I can’t find the people I need.” and instead be thinking, “How do I get people to want to come work here?”  

Providing your people with the training, supervision and leadership they need to grow and succeed is a great way to build the company culture that makes yours a great company to work for, transforming your company into a place that struggles to find good people, into a company where good people want to come because it’s a great place to work.