It’s not often that I hear a new solution to the problems U.S. manufacturers have been dealing with for decades. But, last week at the Brookings Institute, I did and it was a great idea.
While not diminishing manufacturing’s diverse challenges, such as accelerated innovation, the role of government, increases in R&D, improved infrastructure, tax relief, and talent, it wasn’t until we got to the last point – talent – that my ears pricked up.
Most of the above-mentioned issues and solutions offered were those that manufacturers have heard many times already. But one panelist presented a unique solution to the “lack of skilled workers” that really struck a chord with me. It was a solution that I had not heard previously.
Presented by John White Jr. owner of TACO Inc., I could see why Brookings named a series of forums after him. TACO, is pronounced TA-KO and is most definitely not a food manufacturer. They manufacture hydronic systems for the residential and commercial marketplace. What I initially found so striking is that the employee turnover rate in Mr. White’s company is less than 1%, whereas the national average turnover rate in his industry (which he calls metal bashing) is typically 16%! Furthermore, his employee tenure lasts an average of 20 years. His are not employees who are ready to jump ship.
I wondered how he does it. How does Mr. White keep the employees with his firm so much longer than others in his industry? It was clear from his leadership style that his personal values played a big role. For example, he talked about his belief that being a business owner is a “social responsibility”; he takes that responsibility very seriously and through his workforce investments demonstrates the faith he has in his employees. It is important, Mr. White believes, to keep his employees AND their families happy, safe and engaged. So as the company’s owner, he invests in education and training such as English as a Second Language or work related training. Education programs are also offered in art, music, gardening, literature, and a full MBA program is available on site. Mr. White is convinced that employee loyalty is fostered by giving employees opportunities to learn, grow and, ultimately, prosper. Since loyalty usually translates into a lower employee turnover rate, Mr. White is saving his business thousands of dollars annually simply by doing the right thing.
This innovative and financially sound approach to investing in the company by investing in human capital helps the company, its employees and their families contribute to the economic growth in their community.
Isn’t this what we are all striving for? A skilled and capable workforce that can make valuable contributions to our communities and to their families What do you think of Mr. White’s approach? Is it something you can implement in your company?