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A Case Study in Employee Retention through Better Training and Engagement

By Bob Rysavy   |   
Hearthside Foods

Attracting and retaining quality employees is an issue that the entire industry struggles with, especially over the past 18 months. Much of the retention issues stem from the absence of solid career pathing due to archaic business operations.

Our plans at Hearthside Food Solutions, at one time, were the industry standard: great standard work processes, top level one-point lessons, and troubleshooting binders near every machine. Our production training was documented with paper files . This, however, led to unreliable reporting due to human error, occasionally misplaced files, and an inability to get through audits swiftly.

Due to the outdated processes and a need to work in a lean manufacturing world, training resources were stretched thin, which distracted our focus as new employees started.

This had a cascading effect, slowing down development for tenured employees as well. The training process is longer than usual and longer than what our current talent pool needs. Increased training times led to increased working hours for staff, which prompted employee burnout. Our leadership team felt there was a lack of a solid career path for our employees.

When the industry called for lean processes, technology was needed to bridge the gaps we are experiencing. At Hearthside, we leveraged the power of Alchemy Coach to modernize and improve our training development, delivery, and perhaps most importantly – reinforcement and engagement. It does not happen overnight, and we are still in the process. However, we have set a plan to build skillsets and create skills-based training and established salary grade levels.

At Hearthside, we employed extensive learning plans and documented our processes for consistent delivery on our production floors. The learning plans are detailed precisely to promote growth and development. To create these plans, we utilized resources from several thought leaders and subject matter experts within the business. These cross-department and cross-level partnerships encouraged mutual ownership and has promoted the program indirectly.

Our learning plans were created for every machine and process on our production floors, which required us to gather a list of the machines and processes in our plants. We then needed to either enhance or create standard works for those machines/processes as well as one-point lessons. We then established how each process would be employed to develop a career ladder by skillsets.

The processes that were documented allowed us a chance to list the activities needed for each machine/process. By selecting the individual steps, we had a clear plan to be published in our training platform (we use Intertek Alchemy), worked on the floor, and managed and audited through Alchemy Coach. The beauty of the Coach technology is it forces accountability from our staff, our trainers, and our leaders together.

These processes helped uncover skill and training gaps to increase positive employee relations through positive coaching and development. Our secret is in how we celebrate the successes. Celebrating success takes zero effort and there is no cost involved other than the 10 seconds it takes to deliver the praise. It is amazing how many people forget this because of their own ego. To ensure this becomes a pattern, leadership needs to set the standard.

When there is a plan in place that is solid, tangible and rewarded, recruiting efforts become easier, because you become the gold standard. Referrals will increase and costs will go down. In today’s market, we are all evolving. At Hearthside we are continuing to do so. This is a process that can never stop. Once you stop evolving you become complacent. Complacency is a guarantee of failure.

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About the Author

Bob Rysavy is human resources training manager with Hearthside Food Solutions, LLC

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