Got a culture clash in your metal fabricating operation?
That’s a terrible situation, because if the workforce is unsatisfied with their environment, their negative attitude is probably carrying over to their work. More than likely, that then affects the customers of that fabricating company.
In their 2012 book ALL IN: How the Best Managers Create a Culture of Belief and Drive Big Results, Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton discuss how organizations with positive cultures actually have a greater chance of being very profitable. The authors gauge the health of an organization’s culture based on engagement, enablement, and energy. Is the employee engaged in all aspects of the company and willing to go the extra mile? Does the company enable the employee to perform up to his full potential? Is the employee energized each day, displaying the drive and effort to make a difference? If a company can answer “yes” to those questions, the authors said it is on the right path to prosperity.
To back up their findings, the authors closely examined a database with results from 700 companies compiled by a research firm in 2009 and 2010. They focused on the 25 companies that had “high-performance business results,” which suggested high engagement scores, and found that they had margins that were three times those of companies with low scores. Employees were engaged in their job duties and energized to make a difference. Meanwhile, employers put those employees in the best position to succeed.
Nick Kulkarni, president and CEO, Sintel Inc., and his management team had a cultural catastrophe on their hands when they assumed ownership of the Spring Lake, Mich., fabricator in November 2011. In the first week of the ownership transition, one of the fabricator’s largest customers, Caterpillar, notified Sintel that it would be eliminating the company as a supplier of metal parts if it did not correct ongoing quality and delivery issues.
Subsequent conversations with employees and investigations into work conditions revealed that the company had a real problem. The corporate culture had been one of employee neglect prior to the new ownership team.
Sintel managers attacked the cultural problem first and did it in a common-sense way:
- They talked to the employees. When the quality problems were discussed with the shop floor workers, many were stunned. They hadn’t been informed before. But the frank discussions helped everyone to understand what was at stake and what needed to change if Sintel was going to remain in business
- They showed a commitment to the employees. The disgusting bathroom was fixed, and safety equipment was installed. The employees were not going to be overlooked anymore.
Fabricators struggling with a cultural divide between management and shop floor should be motivated by Sintel’s story. Sintel went from the bottom of the list to top of the class as a metal products supplier to Caterpillar, and the transformation took place in only 16 months. True cultural change is possible if steps are taken to engage employees.
Of course, if the employees aren’t engaged, maybe it’s because management isn’t that engaging. If that push for cultural change isn’t supported from the top, all efforts to energize employees are going to languish at the bottom of the to-do list. A case study is not needed to illustrate that scenario.