Building Better Business
In the article Investing in the #1 Asset published in the March/April 2019 issue, sources shared insights on how strong personnel relationships build better businesses. Part of the relationship equation relies on how employees see the company they work for. Here, brand awareness comes into play as part of the personnel equation, as does improving company leadership.
While retaining quality employees is a huge focus for industry companies looking to keep up with business and remain competitive in the marketplace, another big piece of the labor puzzle is recruiting new talent. Window & Door has dedicated many pages to the topic of recruitment tactics. Investing in company culture and personnel relationships is another way to attract new employees—to individual companies, as well as the industry at large.
PGT Innovations promotes itself by being active in the local community. Company leadership partners with area schools, sits on association boards and gives back to community initiatives. By doing this, the community knows PGT. “We got the message out through our activities; we’ve laid that groundwork,” says Debbie LaPinska, vice president of human resources for PGT. But, the biggest asset to building the company brand and driving recruitment is happy employees, she notes.
“People listen to others like them more than a campaign or executives talking up the company. Our hourly employees are helping to recruit. They’re excited about the opportunities they’ve had, and they tell their friends.”
In 2019, the company is capitalizing on this word-of-mouth momentum by crafting the company brand message through employee testimonials. The focused message will be used to recruit employees to PGT, but also to educate the community and general public about why manufacturing is a successful career path, says LaPinska.
Building a company brand starts with an individual’s very first interaction with the company, sources say. To improve its brand at the job prospecting stage, YKK AP is leveraging social channels—most recently LinkedIn and Glassdoor—to communicate with and market to both customers and job seekers within the same space.
“The candidate population is so much more connected with communities and the social aspect of looking for an employer,” says Patrys Wiid, vice president of organizational excellence. “We’re working to formulate branding of who we are, an inside view into what we do. What we do is not a language people know. It’s prudent for us to create that brand.”
The increased social media push helps YKK AP “paint an accurate picture of what we do,” says Steve Schohan, marketing and communications manager for YKK AP. “We want to make sure we can communicate, with as much detail as possible, to give people a true taste of what we're about.”
The company accomplishes this, in part, by actively interacting with online communities, through outlined campaigns as well as employee engagement.
Schohan notes that company leaders provide guidance as to what can be shared, but that “homegrown information sharing” from employees is a true leverage point for successful brand awareness with customers and recruits alike.
He shares an example of how using social media to increase brand awareness fits into the bigger picture of YKK AP’s product development and industry involvement:
“In our marketing campaigns, we communicate how our products make customers’ lives easier. We try to inspire people to use new methods, improve the flow of work. Once we latch onto something that resonates, we can utilize online platforms to generate a dialogue. People working in the field start talking. We interact to support information sharing with the field. This dialogue then crosses into internal development. We can say, ‘we hear you and here are your solutions.’ We’re creating a community around issues. The dialogue becomes a data point and connects us with our industry.”
Schohan notes that the company doesn’t differentiate between customer, employee and recruit with its marketing efforts because “that whole story helps paint the YKK image,” says Schohan. “Someone looking for a job doesn’t think about unitized, but the brand integrity talked about on social is brand awareness. It helps sell a product, but also, people become aware of our products and projects and what we do.”
While this external awareness is a powerful tool to reinforce company culture, introspection is just as essential to building a loyal workforce. Before starting formal training, company-wide assessment surveys provide quantifiable actions for company leadership to improve operations. In 2018, PGT conducted a survey. “A piece of feedback from the surveys was, ‘our leaders don’t seem to know who we are and we don't feel connected to them,’” says LaPinska. Since tabulating results, PGT has trained nearly 200 employees in leadership development. As a result, the company is “starting to see our turnover numbers dropping 4 to 5 percent over the prior year; we’re showing a greater level of engagement,” says LaPinska.
Wiid and the YKK AP team are currently engaged in communicating results of the company’s assessment surveys and training managers to better engage employees on the three improvement areas indicated: professional development, recognition and personal engagement. To ensure the initiative to improve in these areas engages all employees, YKK AP is implementing the 3i model: inform employees, interact with employee, involve employee.
All 129 managers at all YKK AP locations received training materials to walk through results with respective employees. Each team will develop two SMART goals to work through the three improvement areas. “This is not just a one-time meeting. We are training managers to keep the conversation alive when it comes to employee areas of focus,” says Wiid. “It can’t be a flash in the pan; we want a new language for managers to engage.”
Company-wide assessments and feedback campaigns to address key employee growth areas—like improved communication—are common among large firms. However, Wiid notes that while large organizations spend money and time on these efforts, in the end, it's about the connection between the manager and their team, no matter the size. “Any organization can [help] their leaders realize that their job as managers is to connect. We forget how important it is to simply speak to people.”