In the recent April 2014 issue of The Fabricator, Marlin Steel’s own Drew Greenblatt discussed with Dan Davis, the magazine’s Editor-in-Chief, in his own words, how we foster the skills of our employees to strengthen our business. Here is what he said:
While automation has done much to help Marlin Steel not only survive, but thrive in a tough market, it is the ever-growing experience and knowledge of our employees that makes our company a force to be reckoned with. To encourage more knowledge and skills growth among our employees, I have adopted a number of policies designed to make our employees the best that they can possibly be.
Not only does Marlin Steel encourage our employees to gain new skills, we actively reward employees who continue to build their knowledge set. We track our employee’s certifications and skillsets through an organizational “Skills Matrix” that provides a snapshot of who has what skills and we post it where every employee can see it in the lunchroom. Our employees know that we provide wage increases based on the total number of skills that they have earned, which provides a real incentive for them to pursue training in the skills that we need to cover most.
Where other companies are having a hard time finding employees with the skills they need, the members of our team are more versatile than ever before, able to handle a number of tasks. That’s because we invest in making them better.
Why We Encourage Broad Skillsets
Naturally, there is a reason why Marlin Steel encourages our employees to have a broader skillset than we used to. Actually, there are several benefits to growing the skillsets of our employees, but there is a specific incident that Drew mentions in his interview with The FABRICATOR that really highlights the need to have people with more than one skillset.
A few years ago, Marlin Steel was beginning to really ramp up our business, taking on more clients and doing a lot more shipping. One day, the employee that was in charge of shipping and logistics had a medical emergency and was unavailable for a few days. Too late, we discovered that she was the only person in our factory who knew the process for creating packing slips, UPS forms, and various other shipping-related activities.
We kept making products, but we couldn’t ship them without the help of this one person, this Most Valuable Person for shipping. Orders piled up, and the backlog that she came back to was stupendous.
This incident helped us come to the realization that we needed to cross-train our employees and broaden their skillsets and knowledge so that the next time someone got ill or went on vacation, production and shipping wouldn’t come to a screeching halt.
Creating the List
After the shipping fiasco, we created a spreadsheet on Microsoft Excel, listing the names of all of our employees and the critical job skills Marlin Steel needed in order to function. We crossed off the skills that each employee had, and then we put the list on the lunchroom board. The results surprised us.
There were a few employees that we had who already possessed a considerable number of skills, while there were others who did not have as extensive a skills list. We tied a points system to the skills list, and everyone began getting into the spirit of competition, because nobody wanted to be left behind.
As employees added new skills, such as how to work, repair or reprogram specific robots in the factory, we rewarded these self-improvement efforts by providing pay raises to them.
The Benefits of Making More Valuable Employees
Not only were our employees becoming more adaptable and robust in their knowledge, we were, as a company, able to identify specific weaknesses in our overall skill base. Knowing where we were lacking allowed us to incentivize the learning of the specific skills we needed to be more successful and ensure that we continued to be productive and competitive as a whole.
Even as our employees are competing with one another to get the most skill points on the board, which we update regularly, the broadening of their skillsets allows our employees to better support one another. Before, if one employee wanted to take a vacation or go on his/her honeymoon, production might have been hurt because we wouldn’t be able to find someone to cover that person’s responsibilities. Now, everyone knows who will be able to cover for them in case of an emergency, or if they just want to take a well-earned vacation.
Having some skill redundancy also helps when we get a large backlog of work for any one department. When one department gets swamped, for whatever reason, other, less -busy departments can send people in to help get the work done faster.
Treating Employees like Humans, not Resources
Another benefit of Marlin Steel’s rewards system is that we actually don’t have an HR department. Our CFO does HR-related stuff, but we don’t have an HR person.
Why? When our employees meet or beat their goals, they get a cash bonus on top of their regular pay. It’s that simple. Paying people more money to do their work quickly and efficiently is a much more dignified way of improving efficiency than sending someone around the factory floor to tell people that they aren’t working hard enough or fast enough.
Talking down to a person and treating him/her like a child or worse, just a tool to be used and abused, is not only reprehensible, it’s often counter-productive. By supplying a fair, reachable goal for bonuses on each pay period, our employees can see how to earn more money, and know that it is tied directly to their performance for that week.
Read the Full Article Now!
To learn more about how Marlin Steel creates More Valuable Employees and rewards driven, capable individuals, read the article from The FABRICATOR here or contact us today! Marlin Steel is dedicated to moving the manufacturing industry forward through improved automation and better employee relationships.