Despite uncertainty in many aspects of the economy — inflation, GDP growth, supply chains and energy costs, for example — one constant remains: Good employees are invaluable. And they aren’t just critical for the work they do now. They also constitute a vital pipeline for their employers, providing a reliable source of talent for increasingly high-skilled positions and top leadership posts within a company.

Recent issues of this magazine have profiled countless companies with talented leaders who began their tenures at entry-level positions and worked up. Take, for example, Micah Eveland, the CEO of Scamp Trailers in Backus, Minn. Eveland started his time at Scamp fielding phone calls as a customer service representative. He then worked as a warranty manager, in purchasing, and then as a plant manager before becoming CEO.

At All-American Engineering & Manufacturing in White Bear Lake, Manny Efiong serves as president and Matt Braund as vice president. In 2017 the pair purchased the company, which offers contract machining and manufacturing, after years of working there; Efiong started as a machine operator, and Braund was originally hired as a milling machinist lead. Their understanding of the demands of the manufacturing floor helps them monitor industry trends with respect to employee needs, resulting in a low-turnover workforce that delivers customized products quickly and reliably.

Manufacturers who learn how to identify and cultivate the talent already under their roof give themselves a tremendous advantage.

Manufacturers who learn how to identify and cultivate the talent already under their roof give themselves a tremendous advantage by advancing employees with a fundamental understanding of their business and operations. At the same time, tapping existing talent builds employee loyalty and engagement, a critical component in the type of positive work environment all companies aim to create.

That employee engagement piece comes up again and again. A Gallup Workplace Survey shows that just 36% of employees say they are engaged in their work. But those who are engaged are priceless. Engaged employees are more productive, willing to recommend their employer to others, and satisfied with their personal lives. Companies in the top 25% of engaged employees report 64% fewer safety incidents and 41% fewer quality defects, with 81% less absenteeism. These same companies report 23% greater profitability.

Minnesota manufacturers have expressed concern for years about the worker shortage, and our most recent State of Manufacturing® survey showed that concern is as great as ever. Workforce issues topped the list as the key contributor to capacity challenges facing respondents. Those surveyed also said they want their companies to be known for offering a great work environment, including the opportunity for career growth.
Combine the desire to attract and retain top talent with the value of having broadly experienced employees take on greater roles, and it makes sense that companies want to identify and promote talented workers.

While some of that employee growth happens organically, with workers taking on additional responsibility and acquiring new skills over time, all companies can benefit from an employee development strategy.

Recently, Michele Neale, one of Enterprise Minnesota’s top talent and leadership experts, presented “Developing Your Leaders from Within,” a workshop focused on the importance of leadership development at all levels. The program gave participants six steps for improving employee retention rates and offered planning insight for when highly experienced employees move on or retire.

Michele’s belief — that when employees can see a path for growth within a company, they are likely to stay longer and work more productively — is a simple but critical insight for those concerned about the worker shortage. This vision of future opportunity is particularly important to share with those just entering the workforce because surveys show that younger workers place great value on career growth and personal fulfillment.

Recent data shows an increasing number of high school graduates forgoing immediate enrollment in college — with an overall decline since 2010 seeing a more dramatic drop in the last two years. That means there’s a promising pool of future employees and leaders ready to join Minnesota’s vibrant manufacturing sector.

Featured story in the Fall 2022 issue of Enterprise Minnesota magazine.

Return to Fall 2022 magazine