The Most Important Part

Invest in employee retention.

Job shop owners are some of the most detail-oriented people that I have met. While the outside world may not understand the difference between .001 of diameter and how to find value in scrap metal, job shop owners revel in the tiniest part making a huge difference in a machine, or in their profits. But there is one part in every machine shop that often gets overlooked. It is certainly the most valuable—but it also is the easiest to ignore when your customers are breathing down your neck. That part is your employees—and retaining them is as important as any job you finish.

Research from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) as well as the Small Business Administration (SBA) detail how much more it costs for companies, especially small businesses, to hire new employees versus the costs that go into retaining current ones. Add to that the declining number of people that have entered trade schools over the past 10 years and that the overall number of workers aged 25 to 34 is also going downhill, it puts even more pressure on shop owners to spend the time to keep their good people.

The common misperception with shop owners is that it is all about the money. It is true that you may not be able to offer the benefits packages and salaries that larger companies can, but the fact is that most employees are looking for a place that they feel valued and compensation is only one aspect of value.

I want to discuss some ways that you can help retain your best employees: your best “parts.”

As a shop owner, you are making decisions every day—some of them vital and others focused on what to have for lunch. Get your employees involved in decisions and, when you can, use some of their ideas. Whether it is on a new machine you are looking to purchase, company benefits or even how you are working with a customer, your employees want to feel like they have “skin in the game” and they are truly a part of the business.

A public pat on the back goes a long way. Employees that are invested in your business will look to come up with ideas and thoughts on how to improve things. If you don’t have the resources to give a spot bonus (either money or gift certificates), it is important to acknowledge the idea in front of everyone. It will not only motivate the employee that developed the idea, but it also will show others what kind of thinking you are looking for at the shop.

Keep your employees growing. While you challenge your employees every day to do their jobs better, faster and smarter—it would certainly help them to know what new tools are out there for them to do so. Training used to involve two- or three-day seminars and pull people away from their jobs. Now with online training, many companies are able to get their employees up to speed on new technologies, machine skills or organization without having to leave their office or home. The training they gain will only benefit you in the long run and is worth the investment in time and resources.

There are many ways to retain your employees and only you know which ones work best for your office. The important step is that you begin to put some measures in place because your time and money are better spent on current employees—rather than trying to hire someone to replace them.

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