For Pioneer Service President and Co-Owner Aneesa Muthana, having an engaged team is the key to solving the workforce retention puzzle. The Addison, Illinois–based, woman-owned company is among the many manufacturers that find retention, along with recruitment, to be top business challenges, as the NAM’s Manufacturers’ Outlook Survey shows. So how has Muthana gone about building such a team?
Where it all starts: For Muthana, meeting this challenge begins with upholding the company’s core values: integrity, diversity, leadership, outreach, stewardship, quality and learning.
- These words appear on the shop floor, and every job candidate who comes in for an interview receives a handout outlining their importance. “These are more than just pretty words on a wall,” said Muthana. “We chose these values as a team because they pinpoint our path to success, both financially and ethically.”
- “I give them a copy because I want them to understand the importance from the beginning,” said Muthana. “We want to plant the seed before they’re on our payroll that these are the expectations. Then it becomes fair to hold people accountable to them.”
Providing training opportunities: In keeping with its core values of stewardship and learning, Pioneer Service offers internal training opportunities for employees who express an interest.
- “We offer training to anyone who raises their hand, whether it be in safety or leadership,” said Muthana. “It can also be very technical training on the shop floor. We also provide GD&T training, including for our sales team.”
- GD&T, or geometric dimensioning and tolerancing, determines how parts fit together into an assembly to form a product.
- The benefit of having a salesperson learn about GD&T? “A salesperson would be able to look at a customer print confidently and feel comfortable talking to the customer without needing to have an engineer in the room,” Muthana pointed out.
Offering support: Pioneer Service established a chaplaincy program, which connects employees and their families undergoing hardships—such as caring for an elderly parent, grieving the loss of a loved one or dealing with a personal struggle—with a chaplain who can provide counseling and offer spiritual and emotional support. Muthana says that the chaplaincy program is open to any employee, regardless of religious background or preference.
- “The chaplain service is part of our team,” said Muthana. “We have one chaplain come in every week—one week a male and then the following week a female—who is available to meet with staff if needed.”
- Muthana says she used the service a few years ago when her son, who is in the military, came back from Afghanistan. Many of his friends did not.
- “As a parent, you feel grateful that your child survived, but also guilty for feeling that way because a lot of his friends didn’t come home. The chaplain service provided me someone to talk to because I couldn’t talk to my family, and I couldn’t talk to my staff,” she recalls. “I developed a strong relationship with the chaplain that I feel never would have happened if I didn’t look out for my staff and implemented the service.”
Job shadowing: When Muthana goes to a speaking event or conference, she sometimes takes one or two of her staff with her so they’re able to benefit from attending. It’s also a way for her to get to know her staff on a more personal level, outside of the formal workplace setting.
The last word: Muthana shared some advice for companies struggling with workforce retention:
- “Having an engaged team and workers only happens with a people-first mentality,” said Muthana. “When you take care of them, you become successful because you have an engaged team that has your back.”
- “It’s harder to make a profit than ever. The only way that we’re going to be successful is by having an engaged team.”
Go deeper: The Manufacturing Institute (the NAM’s workforce development and education affiliate) has many resources to help employers retain and develop their teams.
- Start with this study to learn how to build positive company culture and engage employees, explore strategies in boosting retention and employee engagement, delve into tips on attracting and retaining talent in rural vs. urban settings and check out the MI’s recent white paper on flexibility approaches for manufacturing production workers, a key tool to improving the employee experience.
- Pioneer Service’s approach to workplace needs exemplifies the benefits of focusing on the holistic frontline employee experience, which include higher retention, less absenteeism and greater engagement, according to a study conducted by the MI and PwC.
- Learn more about Women MAKE America and the 35×30 campaign, the MI’s initiatives to increase the number of women in manufacturing, tapping into this population to address persistent workforce shortages. Military-affiliated talent and second chance populations are great sources, too.