Sometimes an employee puts in their notice and their manager exhales a large sigh of relief. These employees may be toxic to a culture or a poor performer. This was not the case this time.
As I walked through the plant years ago, my production manager informed me that one of our warehouse workers had put in their notice and was going to pursue their dream of becoming a pet groomer. I smiled as he told me that he’d miss her because she was great at her job and a pleasure to work with. In years past there would have been two thoughts going through our minds. The first is how can we retain her? If we’re not going to try that then most likely we’d be fine with parting ways.
A New Mindset
Over the past several years however, we’ve worked hard to build a culture that understands WHY we’re in business. As a company we have our mission and vision but understanding our purpose was more difficult to put into words. If you walked through our shop and asked any random team member what our purpose was you might get a wide variety of answers as they searched for words, but you would have heard reoccurring themes.
Through a process kick started by Simon Sinek’s book Start With Why, we discovered that we’re here to build people, not just parts, so they push beyond their perceived perceptions. This is a big deal to understand in shop full of machinists and welders and assembly technicians and press operators because it’s not the message these occupations typically hear. But this isn’t any ordinary company either, and understanding that changed everything for us. Not only are we trying to build people up, we are trying to help them see their potential is greater than they even know.
Back to our warehouse worker, for the next two weeks at least… she was great at picking and packing parts in the warehouse, but she had a dream. And her dream was not to work in warehouse for the rest of her life. And that’s ok. We’re still here to build her up. We’re here to make a positive impact on her life in as many ways as possible. Learning warehousing skills, learning soft skills, become a better person not just at work but also at home. All of it. And sometimes that means giving people the skills and abilities to move on from our shop and go after their dream. So why wouldn’t I be proud? I had every right to feel proud of leading a shop that has leaders who are building people and not just metal parts. Do we make money building people? Probably not, parts pay the bills, but it’s not our ultimate goal.
Fulfilling a Purpose
When a mama bird raises her chick up and that chick steps up to the edge of the nest and spreads her wings for the first time and takes flight, I can imagine the mama bird might even shed a tear or two. I know I would. Not because she’s sad her chick is moving on, but because she is so proud and she feels a sense of accomplishment in fulfilling her purpose.
Now certainly we want keep a low turnover rate and hire folks who want to work in manufacturing but our WHY is not just for those lifetime employees, it’s for ALL our employees. Often our purpose isn’t limited to the four corners of our campus and that’s why I was so proud to see an incredible employee spread her wings and move on to fulfilling her dreams.