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Industryweek 7128 John Mills July Hold Your Horses

Hold Your Horses: Tips for Retaining Top Talent

July 9, 2014
Whether or not your floor is among the majority that’s adding workers, it’s likely that you’ll feel the pinch at some point. Prepare now by embracing these tips for retaining your best talent.

As North American factories continue to win business, the rush to find and retain talent is reaching a fever pitch.

According to the latest data from the RBC Canadian Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index, or PMI, June factory activity rose to a seasonally-adjusted 53.5, a six-month high and a sharp increase from May’s 52.2 mark. (A score of 50 or above signals growth.) In the U.S., the Institute of Supply Management’s index of U.S. manufacturing activity fell slightly to 55.3 from 55.4 in June, but growth in new orders touched a seven-month high.

Factories are hiring in response. According to a recent report from the Dallas branch of the Federal Reserve bank, the June index reflecting manufacturing employment rose to 13.1 from 2.9 in May. Of the firms participating in the study, 21% reported net hiring while 8% reported net layoffs.

Whether or not your floor is among the majority that’s adding workers, it’s likely that you’ll feel the pinch at some point. Prepare now by embracing these five tips for retaining your best talent.

1. Identify the most critical benchmarks. You won’t know your top performers -- the workers you need most -- if you aren’t measuring your business. Take stock of all elements of your production process. Identify strengths and weaknesses. You’ll soon see who’s having the greatest impact on output and profit.

2. Develop incentives for work that moves the needle. Once you understand the mechanics of how your business creates value, you can develop incentives that reward behaviors that lead to growth and profit. Don’t limit the program. Rather, give everyone on your floor the chance to earn the rewards that come with being a meaningful contributor.

3. Measure relentlessly. Your business will change as you grow and take on new clients, so don’t sit idle. Take note of what’s new and make sure that behaviors that generated value six months ago still have merit today. Best practices are rarely static.

4. Act like a partner. Workers expect to do their jobs and go home. Partners expect to build something, and then share in the rewards. So share. Provide detailed information on what isn’t working, why, and what impact it’s having on the business. Then ask for a commitment to work together to solve the problems as quickly as possible.

5. Reward often, publicly. Be quick with praise and public celebrations of success. Any form will do. Whether it’s an email to the whole team, a personal card from the division vice president, or a modest gift card that buys a lunch or two, employees just want to know that their efforts are appreciated. It’s these little gestures that make it harder for your top workers to decide to leave when competing managers with extra cash come looking for new hires.

In the end, there’s no substitute for having great people running your factory. Be knowledgeable about what you need from your workers, develop appropriate incentives, measure progress often, and then share in the rewards of success. They’ll be more likely to stick around if you do.

John Mills is executive vice president of Business Development at Rideau Recognition Solutions, a global leader in employee rewards and recognition programs designed to motivate and increase engagement and productivity across the workforce.

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