In the previous edition, we explored various challenges faced by numerous companies: “Difficulty in sourcing technical talents within the printing and packaging industry. Even if such talents are discovered or nurtured, retaining them poses a challenge.” The company experiences a low turnover rate among its technical staff. SBL, a key player deeply entrenched in Die Cutting, Folder Gluer, and Hot Stamping machines for over five decades, presented six strategies in the previous installment to allure and maintain technical talents (part 1). Many clients have been eagerly anticipating the continuation of this content’s second segment. Without any further delay, let’s delve into the content of this edition.
4. Establishing Company Culture and Proper Core Values
Tony Hsieh, the founder and former CEO of Zappos, the largest online shoe retailer, once stated, “Culture is the brand. If you build the right company culture, other things like exceptional customer service, long-lasting brand establishment, enthusiastic employees, and customers will naturally follow.”
Interestingly, Zappos’ perspective on company culture aligns perfectly with SBL Machinery‘s approach. The crucial principle conveyed during staff education and training is that everyone, whether front-line sales personnel, back-end customer service representatives, or maintenance technicians, should approach external interactions with the same proactive service attitude and humble demeanor as a salesperson. This is because your service attitude and dedication reflect the company’s image and intangible products.
4-1. Establishing an Enlightened and Healthy "Feedback Mechanism"
4-1-1. Diverse Channels for Feedback
- In-person interactions
- Online meetings
- Anonymous surveys/forms
- Departmental lunches, afternoon tea gatherings
4-1-2. Creating a Secure, Trusting, and Open Atmosphere
Creating a safe, trustworthy, and transparent environment involves making sure employees know that their ideas and opinions matter to the company. The company’s dedication to responding promptly and showing gratitude is vital. Empower your employees to put forward concrete suggestions for enhancing the organization or voicing their concerns. While it might not be feasible to address every individual viewpoint, the objective is to establish a platform for open communication.
4-1-3. Regular communication and review sessions
Don’t have a fixed timeframe, but it’s recommended to engage in interactions at least once a quarter, possibly through activities like face-to-face meetings, relaxed afternoon tea sessions, or gatherings, with the specific aim of gathering feedback from technical staff.
4-2. Establishing Systems
Companies usually have established written regulations as part of their internal systems, such as the requirement to arrive on time for work to maintain full attendance bonuses. However, there are some aspects that are not explicitly covered by formal rules and can test a manager’s wisdom. Let me provide an example using SBL Machinery: the company places significant importance on punctuality, whether it’s for internal meetings, events, or external commitments like customer repairs or equipment deliveries. Minor unforeseen circumstances rarely lead to lateness or delayed deliveries.
Taking the example of a newly appointed department head in the company, the head emphasizes punctuality for meetings. Latecomers are required to treat those who arrived on time to afternoon tea. Ironically, during the department head’s first monthly meeting, they were delayed by around 10 minutes due to their usual commute car breaking down. Despite taking a taxi, they were still tardy. Following that meeting, without any hesitation, the department head treated everyone who attended to Starbucks coffee. Interestingly, this gesture had a profound impact – those who used to arrive slightly late started sensing the collective commitment and began attending meetings punctually or even earlier.
4-3. Public Rewards, Private Punishments
In reality, human nature leans towards seeking rewards, and nobody really prefers facing penalties. For instance, if a company or organization aims to encourage employees towards proactive development, supervisors might acknowledge the proactive actions of certain staff members. This can range from verbal appreciation during meetings for smaller achievements, to presenting awards or bonuses for significant contributions (such as preventing revenue loss, aiding cost-saving initiatives, or facilitating successful case closures). Naturally, employees within the company would recognize this pattern as an exemplary model worth emulating. On the other hand, in the event of major violations by employees, the transgressions and corresponding penalties would be made public. If the violations are in direct contradiction to the company’s culture or mission (e.g., excessive unexplained absences), for less severe transgressions, it’s advisable to communicate privately with the employee. This approach makes it easier for employees to accept criticism and work towards improvement.
5. Cultivate project or interdepartmental work ability
In the case of SBL Machinery, there are two main categories of technical talents related to the products.
One involves physically demanding roles, such as mechanical assembly technicians and electrical wiring engineers.
The other pertains to mentally intensive positions, like mechanical design engineers and electronic control programming engineers.
Unless these professionals have received specific training at other companies, most of them tend to lack project management or cross-departmental collaboration skills. So, how can the company cultivate the ability of technical staff to undertake projects or work across departments? Here are a few suggested approaches:
5-1. Provide training opportunities for different units or departments
Taking SBL as an example, for on-site assembly technicians, the option to periodically rotate between different product units (Die Cutting, Folder Gluer, and Hot Stamping machines) or transition to other related departments such as sales, marketing, and production management largely depends on individual traits, attitudes, and willingness. Generally, individuals who undergo training in various departments tend to gain a better understanding of different departmental workflows and pain points. As a result, they are better equipped for empathetic thinking and cross-departmental communication, which presents an excellent opportunity to enhance their project management skills.
5-2. Opportunities to participate in projects
In general, the successful completion of projects typically necessitates collaborative involvement from multiple departments, such as new product development projects or product improvement initiatives. The individuals engaged in these projects share a common objective: to achieve the project goals within the specified timeline. Through this process, they naturally gain an understanding of the roles, responsibilities, and contributions of various departments. Those who frequently participate in such projects tend to enhance their interpersonal communication skills and develop the ability to think from different departmental perspectives. This enables them to find balanced solutions for project goals by considering the needs of various departments.
5-3. Establish a task force unit
When it comes to project management, the concept of the “iron triangle” is often discussed, consisting of “budget,” “time,” and “scope.” True project achievers within a company not only possess foundational expertise in their respective fields but also demonstrate the ability to tackle the challenges of completing projects within predefined time and budget constraints.
Identifying individuals with both product and departmental expertise is relatively straightforward within a company. However, the advanced selection of candidates capable of effective communication for collaborative project execution, and even further, for assuming the role of a project lead, is considerably more demanding.
Experienced participants with high project capabilities must clearly monitor the progression of the project’s “budget,” “time,” and “scope” values as time advances. When unforeseen issues arise, schedules lag, or budgets are exceeded, these skilled professionals can leverage their extensive experience and abilities to ensure the project’s timely completion.
In addition to gradually accumulating project experience as mentioned in section 5.2, companies can establish dedicated project teams.
This approach ensures a continuous flow of completed projects within the company while also elevating the fundamental understanding and skills of internal personnel through the formation of these project teams.
6. Starting from the perspective of a sports team
In the book “POWERFUL: Building a Culture of Freedom and Responsibility” by Patty McCord, the former Chief Talent Officer of Netflix, it’s mentioned that Netflix’s rapid growth and strength stem from managing the company using the concept of a sports team. While many companies often metaphorically refer to themselves as an “employee’s home,” seemingly motivational, it might not be appropriate. Interestingly, conflicts are often most prevalent within a family, making the analogy potentially counterproductive for a business. So, how does this counterproductivity arise? As we all know, the home is each person’s emotional haven, where family members aren’t usually penalized or even expelled for underperforming.
Effective leaders should position their teams as “we are a team.” This notion is clear: everyone comes together to progress, secure ultimate victory, and elevate the team’s excellence. This objective aligns with everyone’s interests. To achieve this goal, each member must improve, and some adjustments are entirely normal.
Drawing an analogy to a sports team, if we consider employees’ “professional abilities and industry experience” as their “scoring prowess”, then project capabilities can be likened to a player’s assists or rebounding skills. Just like a basketball team might have an exceptional long-range shooter (akin to an accomplished RD mechanical design engineer) or a skilled post player (akin to a proficient production assembly technician), possessing both high-scoring abilities (departmental or domain expertise) and strong assists or rebounding skills (project or cross-departmental capabilities) makes an all-around player that any team would desire.
Therefore, to attract and retain technical talent, whether your company operates in the printing or packaging industry, viewing employees as team players goes beyond just enhancing their scoring capabilities (professional skills and industry knowledge). If a company can go the extra mile to help employees elevate their assisting or rebounding skills (project and cross-departmental abilities), it undoubtedly becomes a high-quality company that can attract and retain technical talent. Wouldn’t you agree?