As Mike and I continue to talk about the gaps we are seeing in the machine trades, we notice one thing that is very standard, the need for more qualified personnel. Most people we talk to are looking to add a Milling specialist, a Lathe specialist, a Wire EDM specialist, a Programmer, a Manufacturing Engineer, a Quality Engineer… The list goes on an on. With the supply chain tightening up, the workloads in shops growing to critical mass, and the continued re-shoring of work there are huge needs to grow our workforce. How are we going to do this?

We need to start from the inside.

One conservative statistic for the cost of replacing a key player in our company averages around 1.5 X the key player’s annual wage. This can turn into $500k really fast if we don’t retain our top talent. With this said, not only do we need to add talent, but we need to keep the talent we have. This points out the importance of our internal culture. Imagine if you had HR, Leadership, Middle managers, and all of your floor staff recruiting for you? This truly takes the phrase “many hands make light work” and uses it to tackle one of our biggest challenges. Now imagine people around town talking about how leadership at your company takes care of their people, and how people love working for your company. Now you have the whole town recruiting for you. We need to start thinking this way to bridge the employee gaps in the market. People want to work for good leaders in good companies.

How do we start this shift?

The first thing we need to do is lean into our leadership. We HAVE to be good leaders, otherwise people will not follow. We need to listen as much as we talk, and we need to be willing to change the way we have always done it. This start by looking in the mirror and then talking to a mentor or someone that can hold us accountable. We need a dust free mirror so we can work on becoming our best selves. When we do this our team will notice, and then we can start passing these good lessons on to the next people in line.

The second thing we need to do is start investing in our team. This needs to be something meaningful and not just lunch or doughnuts (although I am a fool for doughnuts). We need to take time and talk with our team one on one, get to know their personal goals, and help them accomplish their dreams. Yes, they may only be with you for a season, but that season could be one of the brightest of their careers. When we identify people that want to become leaders we help them along, we educate them by sending them to training, and then we talk to them about what they have learned. When we ENGAGE the workforce where they are, show an interest in their success and let them share their passions everyone starts winning.

The third is accountability. When we start investing in people and they start growing toward their goals, we hold them accountable. This does not mean that we punish them if they miss a mark, it means that we stay in touch with them regularly and remind them why they are doing what they are doing. We lean in and help them succeed in life. This is the real reason why we engage others, to help them succeed in life.

When we take a real interest in our people and invest in them, we start working on culture. Culture is so much more than a catchy slogan, its meeting people where they are, looking them in the eye, and helping them reach their personal goals. When people start reaching their goals (and they will when you invest in them), they will never forget you. They will remember the person that had faith in them and pushed them to be the best they could be. They will remember you for the rest of their career. That is the perfect picture of rewarding.

I know when my days are numbered, I strive to have people remember me not by what I accomplished monetarily, but how I was a positive impact on others. I want to be remembered as a man who invested in others, believed in people that needed to be believed in, and helped others reach their goals both professionally and personally.

Isn’t that what you want?

If so, you can grow your culture internally to a new height and your entire town will recruit for you. In fact, if I can be so bold, you may have more applications than you have positions to fill. This is where we need to be.