This blog was guest-written by Meg Brown, Director of HR at Cambridge Engineering. 

The goal was 10 applicants for each opening. In a tight labor market? There’s no question: this is the most difficult time to build engaged teams in a generation. There are so many interests competing for attention. From finding workers, to upskilling them -- how can we make sure we attract the right people in the first place? We’d have to be crazy to attempt it!   

Then call us crazy because we have supersized our recruitment pipelines and enabled historically low turnover. Through a combination of people-centric leadership and innovative recruiting/development programs, we have redefined the employer/employee relationship. 

Allow me to explain. 

Cambridge doubles production in the 3rd and 4th quarter, especially on our S-Series HTHV heaters, which naturally coincide with the colder weather. For many years we have surged with seasonal employees who spend 4-6 months working for Cambridge through our busy season. A few years ago we began hiring for cultural fit over experience, believing we can provide thorough in-house training. While that helped, we were still struggling to find talent quickly enough using staffing agencies to help bridge the gap. In 2018 with the crazy goal of 10 applicants for every opening the message was clear - we had to find a new approach to attract and retain talent.     

Enter Cambridge Unleashed. 

We realized there is real value in spending time at Cambridge - even if it is only for a short period of time. So we created Cambridge Unleashed, a new concept which allowed us to start telling our story - describing the value working here can bring to each and every one of us. This program is intended for anyone interested in learning, leading and launching their manufacturing career. 

Reading 2-Second Lean by Paul Akers is a conscious step we require for all full-time and seasonal workers. This continuous improvement methodology reinforces autonomy for each person to make their work processes, and by extension, their jobs better and easier. 2-Second Lean, though, follows each person home and extends beyond the walls of Cambridge. We hear time and again how someone recognized waste or something that bugged them at home and exclaimed “Hey, that’s a lean improvement!” Exposure and practice of this mentality is quick and effective, and can help a person make their own experiences better for their rest of their lives.

We’ve found that when our 20 “Unleashers” dove into the given opportunities they end up unlocking their potential, feeling appreciated and in control of their own workspace. Here are some real life examples:

  • Many Unleashers found courage they didn’t know they had and volunteered to emcee the morning meeting. 
  • Our team reached a company record breaking production level of 13 units a day.  
  • All 20 Unleashers jumped into our lean system making videos showing highlights of their improvements. 
  • Zero lost-time accidents through the entire busy season.

You might be wondering what happens at the end of the program? Where do these seasonal employees go after Unleashed? 

We realized quickly that if Cambridge Unleashed is a program for anyone who wants to launch their manufacturing career, then we had better figure out how to do it.  Many of our Unleashers came into Cambridge having never worked in manufacturing, and after 4-6 months with us they had learned the daily habits necessary to be a dedicated lifelong continuous improvement/lean maniac. What company wouldn’t want to hire them?!? We just had to figure out a way to tell their story. So we used video – a well loved tool often used at Cambridge. 

We created a launching process which allowed us to work with our Unleashers to determine their best next step at the end of the program.  Did they want to apply for our open positions and launch internally or did they want to look for a job somewhere else launching externally? Either way we were in it with them every step of the way. Those interested in internal launch applied for those openings, completed an interview process and were considered for any openings available. Those interested in external launch worked closely with us to create an introduction and highlight video they could use when they applied to other companies. We helped them update their resumes, adding a link to their video so any recruiter could see the amazing work they had done at Cambridge. Then to help get the word out we blasted their videos to our entire network, letting them know we had some Unleashed graduates who were seeking employment. 

All in all, we launched all 20 Unleashers into positions they are excited to have, many here at Cambridge and a few elsewhere. We smashed the goal – achieving an average of 20 applicants for each opening!   We are beyond thrilled with the results of Cambridge Unleashed. Can’t wait to do it again in 2019!

 

Bringing #GloryandDignity back to manufacturing.

It’s an aspirational concept, one that you might not associate with manufacturing. We see it every day, though, through the companies that share their stories with us when they visit our facility or our colleagues at trade events. The goal of lifting our industry to a higher standard by giving back to the community and to employees might not be intrinsic to all leaders - yet, more and more, we see shining examples of our friends in this business doing just that.

  • The Seating Matters team is generating tools and resources to save lives before and after pressure injuries through an Injury Prevention Program aimed at correct seating, training, maintenance and education of staff.
  • BCI is providing high-quality packaging solutions to their customers through a system of creating meaningful employment and skills training for 250 adults with disabilities.
  • A structure of independent and interdependent teams at Vibco allows individuals valued for their strengths to complement and grow with each other while working toward the same mission.
  • FastCap continues to share their own manufacturing improvement ideas through 2 Second Lean to inspire other organizations or to even just provide a simple solution to a problem they might be facing.

We see it every day, though some might not associate these amazing achievements with what they are ultimately doing for manufacturing. At Cambridge, we’ve found that one of the easiest ways to recognize both glory and dignity within our own organization is through celebration.

Remembering to fête the lines’ extraordinary output when we hit a 13 unit/day output (up from 8-9 units/day) while maintaining quality standards was essential. The service team is constantly praised by our contractor partners for their diligence and assistance through any issue in the field.  The engineering department’s behind-the-scenes work designing custom, yet simple, solutions for our end users deserves its own standing ovation. Each Cambridge employee embodies the dignity factor, and as a whole, they bring glory to their work, our company, and the manufacturing industry. 

Watch John’s speech from 2017 that helped us realize the #gloryanddignity mission!

This post was guest-written by our friend in lean and life, Martin Tierney, from Seating Matters in Northern Ireland. In case you missed it, you can experience the amazing things Martin and his team are doing with lean in our blog post.

 

I recently visited Cambridge engineering to learn from their awesome team following their visit to Seating Matters in Ireland. We, too, are in manufacturing and wished to visit Cambridge to learn how they’ve implemented lean, developed their culture of respect and care for their colleagues and grown a successful business as a result. 

This video only gives 5% (or less!) of the lessons I took away from visiting Cambridge. Their unique blend of hard work, creativity, respect for people, clever project management and an impressive drive for growth is something that cannot be bottled into a 5 minute clip. 

They are truly bringing glory and dignity back to manufacturing. Their people and their leadership have created something truly special.

 

Part of the personal growth effort of Cambridge includes encouraging each employee to feel more confident speaking in front of a large group and other public speaking opportunities. The "practice" of this improvement comes in the form of taking turns to Emcee the morning meeting that we hold out in the shop every day. Each Emcee can speak to whatever they'd like as the group stretches - some take the chance to talk about their families or hometowns, others give trivia and yet, others - like Steve, our Controller - take the opportunity to be creative. Watch the video below to see how Steve used his introduction time! 

Truly understanding your customer’s needs and the value they place on your products and services is paramount to success in business. Defining and refining your value to the customer takes total organizational alignment. Alignment around the importance of the information and collaboration around collecting it, communicating it, and acting on it are vital. [caption id="attachment_199" align="alignnone" width="300"]value concept handwritten on blackboard value concept handwritten on blackboard[/caption] Customer Advisory Boards are a great way to engage the leadership in your own organization. They allow you to capture candid feedback on measuring existing corporate value statements against your messaging across the company. Are your value statements landing? Do they resonate with the people receiving them? What would your customers say is most important to them? Customer Advisory Boards provide three major benefits to an organization. 1. Deepening Relationships with Customers 2. Understanding Your Customer’s Value Language 3. Identifying Your Product/Service Gaps Deepening Relationships: People do business with people they like. Putting people together with one purpose, “How can we help one another achieve more together?” or better yet, “How can I help you over achieve for your organization? My win is wrapped up in yours.” Putting your customers together with your business leaders across the enterprise can create awesome bonding and momentum. Understanding Your Customer’s Value Language: We all want to be spoken to in our own value language. I can be just as guilty as the next of projecting what I think is important to customers rather than speaking in their terms. “Energy efficiency is important to building owners and facilities managers,” I state. The customer stated, “Energy efficiency is really important to owners, but I also want to cut 2% out of the total costs of the project. That is more important right now. Can you help me do that?” How valuable is your proposed solution in the language of the customer? Go well beyond economic value to draw out all things valuable and then have your Customer Advisory Board rank them. Then, and this is key, change your language based on their responses and challenge the list continuously through an ongoing Advisory Board engagement process. Identifying Your Product/Service Gaps: Through intentional questioning, you can uncover items requiring your organizations attention. What is the number one problem you are facing with the use of our product? Share with us any challenges you’ve had with our products? What else have you experienced? How many times has that occurred? How would you suggest we improve what we’re doing? What are others doing in this space that you feel is innovative? A great way to clear the session of any fear of sharing “bad news” is to coordinate a pre-Advisory Board survey that probes into improvement areas. Also, don’t defend or justify any mistakes or gaps. Just reply, “Thank you for sharing that.” Your customers will share openly if their input is appreciated and not explained away. Build an Advisory Board and you’ll build a deeper relationship with your customers, knowing how to speak their language and fine tune your products/services for success. Have you created or participated on an Advisory Board? I’d love to hear your experience in the comments below.