Not since the Great Depression of 1929 when 15 million people lost their jobs have we seen this many people leave their jobs during the ‘Great Resignation’ of 2021. An estimated 35-40 million quit last year and that could mean some of you may be looking into alternative career paths. As you look around and do your research for your new career I would like to suggest a more rewarding type of employment in the field of manufacturing. It’s not your daddy’s manufacturing plant anymore. With the integration of technology and electronics, it is a more interesting and challenging job and manufacturing covers everything from food products to Teslas and needs people in accounting, customer service, quality control, sales, marketing, programming, mechanics, engineers, and purchasing finished and raw materials who all, like a team, support the manufacturing process. However, before you begin, remember as with any industry there are good companies and there are bad companies so if you decide on a career in manufacturing let me share some warning signs to watch for with you so you can be aware and avoid these mistakes.
SCENARIO 1 – When you’ve applied for a salaried position as supervisor or manager and they constantly ask if you don’t mind working overtime. In fact, during the hiring process, each of the five different interviewers you faced made a point to mention you’ll be working lots and lots of overtime but never specifically said how many extra hours they consider lots and lots or unreasonable. Remember this is a salaried position, there is no overtime pay or mention of additional compensation, except for the promise, we will take care of you.
When you hear this: they are telling you that they are totally disorganized as a company and have no clue what direction they’re moving towards as they’re just happy to maintain the status quo as production is riddled with mechanical breakdowns, maintenance issues, damaged and poor quality products, a high rate of sick calls, poor training, and not fulfilling orders, none of which they mention during the interview. These companies are usually managed by an investment banker group that has placed people in management who have no idea about how or what the manufacturing process at this plant entails or the finished product. They just know how to count beans.
Because of this lack of understanding, routine maintenance goes undone, (they believe it’s cheaper just to wait until it breaks down) repair part inventory is kept to the bare minimum (they believe there is no point in tying cash up in parts that just sit on a shelf when you can get most within 24 hours) and often not on hand creating downtime for all. This could be an interesting place to work but be aware, it will be very challenging and frustrating as the rules of the road will change almost daily making meeting goals difficult. However, if you’re a masochist like me this is the perfect job for you and can lead to a long career especially if you’re adept at brown-nosing higher-ups and just saying YES unless another investment company comes along and buys the place, then you could be starting all over again but then being bought by a company already in the industry would make this a dream job. Go with caution.
SCENARIO 2 -When you’ve applied for a position in management (manager/department head/plant) and after you have completed the hiring process, passed your background check, and physical, and sealed the deal, on your first day they tell you…
Company A– that the person who is currently the supervisor has been with the company for five-plus years, had also applied for the job and thought they would naturally get the position. Since they didn’t get the job, as part of a deal worked out they will be leaving the company within three months or sooner hopefully if he finds another job. I was told that if I wanted I could terminate him now. We’ll support you whatever you decide.
Company B– that the person who is currently the supervisor has been with the company for a very long time and they told me he didn’t get the job because he wasn’t very good as a supervisor and was not the person that could help take the business to the next level. It was a family-owned business and the owner didn’t like him but the office employees did because he always stopped to do favors and then never completed his responsibilities creating mayhem in the warehouse. I was told you can terminate him right now if you wish. We’ll support you whatever you decide.
Company C– that there was no current manager in place as the last two were hired and quit within the last three months and a senior clerk who has been with the company for a very long time is in control barely keeping the department functional. Inventory is way off, critical documentation is far behind and all employees have fallen into bad habits without any leadership. I was told you can terminate anyone you deem needs it, and we’ll support you whatever you decide.
All three scenarios above actually happened and all three were family-owned and operated companies and for whatever reason, all three were hired from the outside to fill their open management positions. That told me these companies were not willing, capable, or wanted to take the time to put a system in place to develop talent from within the company. When you hear them tell you during the interview the reason they went outside as we’re looking for fresh blood, that’ll confirm it. At all three companies, we instituted training programs to ensure our continued growth and consistent quality of the product. At two of those companies, I partnered with the H.R. person to get a program in place. We had more quality meetings with staff, increased training, and listened to employee feedback. Soon, employee retention increased, sick calls dropped and productivity hit new highs. Working for a Family-owned company can be good, bad, or both. Good in that they actually know your name and contributions but they can be a curse as well if a family member takes the hate toward you because they don’t agree with your new policies and practices even though they’re very much needed to get the company to the ‘next level’. At a large corporation, you’re known by your employee number like an SKU for any part but you usually have more resources available to you and can make more money.
A – After a nice chat I let him stay at first but it turned out he didn’t want to contribute in any way and hindered the changes we were making so finally had to say goodbye. Lesson learned – You don’t always have to try to be a nice guy, cut ties right away especially if you’ve been given the opportunity to make major changes within the facility.
B – My first thought, was why did they let him stay this long? But again I was intrigued and found a company with very few procedures and poor record-keeping of production and regulatory requirements. I kept him on staff. Went through his and everyone else’s company files to look at what level of training they had and spoke with heads of other departments before demoting him of his supervisor title but he became my specialist and was able to track his time and chargeback his services to other departments and he enjoyed his new job while I promoted one of the receiving clerks to supervisor based on his previous experience and the fact he impressed me with his observations of what needed to be done.
C – I must admit that hearing that two people quit so soon was terrifying and interesting. Again I went through files, and training records and spoke to others but before I did that, I had a meeting with all at the beginning of the day and gave each employee a copy of the rules of the road including but not limited to how to call in sick, not to touch a forklift until training, how long and when breaks and lunchtimes were and the consequences for their actions. After explaining each line I had them sign and acknowledge they had received this training. I only wound up terminating two employees plus one voluntary quit in the first two weeks, otherwise, everyone else remained and we became a very productive team.
Good luck in your job search and I hope you find a job you really enjoy, it won’t feel like work. If you need more information please feel free to read one or all of the many articles available here.