Last week, I received this letter from the parents of one of our employees. They were in town and toured our facility, and wanted to express their gratitude and appreciation for what they observed during their time here. This unsolicited, moving gesture inspired me to reflect on the culture of employee engagement that we’ve developed and sustained over the years.
We would like to thank you for providing our son, Michael, the opportunity to work for you in an environment that we have always felt was a perfect fit for his growth and development. The “hands-on” experience for Michael brings out the many talents that we always knew were in him – he just needed the opportunity to use them.
On our recent visit to see him we were given a tour of the shop and were very impressed with the people he is working with and all the things he has learned.
We would also like to thank you for the “extras” that come along as well. That Friday “Goof Off Day” we received a phone call from Michael to inform us about his day and how much fun he had while getting paid. That was so nice and a great way for everyone to start their weekend. If he didn’t say it or didn’t have the opportunity to, we can assure you that it didn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated by him.”
In 2013, I didn’t expect for us to win Chicago’s 101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For Award. We applied for the award to get a low-cost outside source to benchmark where we were and identify opportunities for improvement. Instead we won that year and every year since. Employee engagement is the fuel that drives the value of our company.
People are the primary source of our competitive advantage. As we all have heard before, products can easily be copied, technological innovation can prove fleeting, and more facilities can be built, but the quality of manufacturing talent, its passion and commitment, is nearly impossible to duplicate. As the great Jim Collins states, Packard’s Law (David Packard of HP) in the book How the Mighty Fall, “No company can consistently grow revenues faster than its ability to get enough of the right people to implement that growth and still become a great company. [And] if a company consistently grows revenue faster than its ability to get enough of the right people to implement that growth, it will not simply stagnate; it will fall.” As a privately held company, we have the luxury of not being pressured to grow any faster than we can find the right people, and that has made all the difference.
As a contract manufacturer, maintaining a competitive advantage is essential. When times get rough, it could be easy to forget the ‘people’ element in and focus sights solely on hitting financial targets. Yet prioritizing a sound culture of employee engagement allows us to retain top talent and reap the benefits of a loyal workforce committed to the future success of our business.