Reducing turnover: A unique approach to hiring for manufacturing

As with many manufacturing companies, Mar-Bal Inc. has experienced challenges in its day-to-day operations regarding hiring and on-boarding of manufacturing employees. Manufacturing of thermoset plastic parts is not a glamorous industry, our location can be challenging in itself and our resources for hiring were few.
Our highest turnover occurred in 2014 when it peaked at approximately 14.7 percent. We monitored the metrics using exit interviews, reasons, tenure and deliberate turnover. We were dealing with turnover in a passive manner and needed to address the situation head on.
We had to focus on hiring for fit and training for skill. It was then that we decided to design and implement a new process for recruiting, hiring and on-boarding manufacturing employees. Our goal was to improve the quantity and quality of potential candidates to attract employees, reduce employee hiring and training costs and improve employee retention.
The process
First, we developed new talent pipelines, including community colleges, technical colleges, military, career fairs, local outreach and other current employees. Creating awareness and continuing to develop relationships is key to pipelines for hiring. Developing pipelines is not an event it is a continuous process.
Next, we developed our Realistic Job Preview for applicants to apply online to see and hear about our company first hand. This venue provides information including job descriptions, schedules, benefits, and employee testimonials. For those who do not have computer and/or Internet access, we set up a computer for applicants to use.
The next step is to review the applicant information from the RJP and invite chosen applicants to Recruiting Day. There, potential employees spend a few hours learning about the company, seeing what we make, touring the plant and experiencing different roles in different departments.
Applicants can opt out at any time during the process. Maybe they aren’t comfortable with injection molding or the heat. And that’s OK, the process is about asking, “Do they fit?” Interested individuals speak with current employees and we provide them the opportunity to get a firsthand look and feel of the job. This atmosphere creates a win-win by allowing candidates to decide if this is the place they want to work and if we want them to join our team.
The offer
After a candidate accepts a job offer, they are invited to a World Class First Day. This includes more specific human resources information, a department welcome and introduction to others in their department or on the shift, more in-depth safety orientation and a mentor is assigned to shadow the individual. The on-boarding process then continues for their first 30 days and beyond. This is the “train for skill” part.
This process realized a reduction in turnover within 6 months. By August 2014 our turnover rate was practically cut in half to 7.8 percent. Since continuing this process, our 2015 turnover averaged 5.3 percent. This entire process takes the commitment of not only human resources, but plant leadership and executive leadership.
Maria Gaeta is the corporate director of human resources of Mar-Bal Inc., headquartered in Chagrin Falls,  the leading integrated compounder and molder of BMC Thermoset composite products and value added finishing services. Maria has more than 20 years of experience as a human resource executive, director and consultant.