Five Initiatives to Develop and Keep Workforce Talent

Five Initiatives to Develop and Keep Workforce Talent

Written by Peter Feil, vice president, general manager at Stober Drives, Inc.

The bright lights of the big city can make finding skilled workers difficult for businesses located in rural areas, but we have found that valuing employees and developing them as leaders is the best way to find and keep top-notch workforce talent.

Stober Drives, Inc., a manufacturer of high efficient helical gearing solutions, is located in Maysville, Ky., a small town of 9,000 is known for its annual Rosemary Clooney Music Festival and gorgeous, rolling farmland along the southern shore of the Ohio River. When Stober moved to Maysville 26 years ago, management realized quickly that a lot of the workforce wanted to live in bigger cities like Lexington and Cincinnati. And how do you fight the pull of the city? It’s difficult at best. But attracting employees who want to stay close to home and developing them as leaders is not only possible, it works.

Here’s the top five ways Stober learned to attract and keep workforce talent in our rural surroundings:

Cultivate a positive corporate culture that keeps employees engaged—Promoting a strong corporate culture where employees feel respected, valued and listened to is essential to creating a workplace employees want to remain in for a career. We’ve tried hard to build an environment where people can grow, develop their technical and leadership skills and express their talents. Not only is a positive culture the right thing to do for your people, it’s the right thing to do for your organization.

Our ultimate success comes from the people within our organization. Employees are the ones who make the difference. We’ve always valued gold-standard customer service, for example, but our employees are on the front line for execution. They are the ones who grow our business. Employee initiatives and ideas we’ve generated through peer networking, roundtables, continuous learning and strategic planning sustain our long term success. We’ve found that great leaders go above and beyond to take care of the customer.

Promote an atmosphere of continuous learning at work—At Stober, we have a full time Talent Development Leader dedicated to building employee technical skills and knowledge. Our continuous learning initiatives have been the most successful for employee development. Employees can take classes onsite, participate in pertinent online learning, or engage in a tuition reimbursement program. The goal is to reinforce a learning workforce and culture.

Build a pipeline for future employees—We implemented an apprenticeship program in the mid-2000s, which has benefitted both Stober and its employees. Employees receive on-the-job training, free education and wages. We invest in people with high potential and have a fully-educated and trained person at the end of the apprenticeship.

Two years ago, we decided to go even deeper. In 2016, we developed a pre-apprenticeship program to prepare hand-selected high school students for the workforce by giving them industry certification while engaging them in a hands-on environment. Stober chooses the courses, post-secondary requirements, and provides flexible hours to work with the student’s school schedule. This program helps us cultivate loyal employees and take the “Grow Your Own” approach to the skilled worker shortage.

Participate in local, regional and statewide workforce development efforts—We attend many regional job fairs and school events and are always on the lookout for potential employees who are self-motivated and directed. Good leadership potential and values are essential—we want our people to belong to a strong culture and build relationships with team members. Our philosophy is this: we can teach someone skills and technical knowledge, but you can’t teach someone to want to be a part of a positive corporate culture. Result: Typically, our employees are from the surrounding area and seek us out for jobs.

Joining local, regional and statewide workforce development programs is a win-win for both company leadership and the organization. Community colleges can be great venues to find motivated potential employees. Stober leadership has learned how to improve and grow our workforce through its participation in Kentucky Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (KY FAME) and statewide with Tech Ready Apprentices for Careers in Kentucky (TRACK). The organizations gained a valuable partner willing and ready to educate potential employees.

Offer employees the benefits they want most— Stober has always offered generous benefits to employees as part of our culture. We have free healthcare, tuition reimbursement, and 401K matching. We also focus on physical and financial wellness. We try to provide as many resources as possible to assist employees in all facets of their lives because when you offer employees the benefits that matter to them most, they are motivated to work hard and stay longer. Our average employee turnover rate is three percent while the industry average is about 10 percent.

The U.S. manufacturing sector is expected to face a skilled labor shortage over the next 10 years and already 80 percent of manufacturers report a moderate or serious shortage of qualified applicants for skilled and highly-skilled production positions, according to Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute.

Filling your worker pipeline isn’t a matter of plugging a worker into a job; it’s finding people with leadership potential who are dedicated to helping your organization grow. With the right strategies and initiatives in place, all boats will rise. You’ll not only stem the worker shortage and keep the employment pipeline filled; you’ll also grow employee leadership, loyalty and your organization. (


Categories: Editors Choice

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