by Susan Hileman, NWIRC, CRP Program Manager

For many years I have asked employers what their value proposition was, and more than 50 percent of the time they would say, “We have the best quality, service and on-time delivery!” While these are all highly desirable, they are expected in the business world. If you’re not providing them, the work could likely go (or has gone) elsewhere. As such, this is not really what sets you apart. In addition, the number one issue that NWIRC Strategic Business Advisors continue to hear as we meet with manufacturers is “I can’t find people.” The most recent Workforce Institute Report noted in a survey of over 2000 employed workers, 52% say they will job hunt in 2021—up from 35% in 2020. “The main reasons for job seeking are better compensation and benefits (35%) and better work-life balance (25%).”  So, the questions become, why do companies buy from you instead of your competitor? And where do you find people?

The answer to both is: Look to your culture. Having motivated, dedicated, loyal, and empowered employees is a huge influence on other team members and contributes to a culture where people both support each other and the company. When morale is good and the team is working together like a well-oiled machine, everyone notices the difference in better communication, increased productivity, more focused attention to safety, lower errors and waste, and lower absenteeism.

Photo of manufacturing workersSo where are these employees? How do you develop this culture? You grow it, and them, and yourself. Employees who are motivated, dedicated, loyal, and empowered work for organizations that have a culture where the employee is valued and respected and wages & benefits are fair and equitable. It’s one where policies and practices truly reflect the company’s core values. A culture that walks-the-talk and has a human-centric focus, putting people in front of profits—knowing that one leads the other. Where are these employees? They’re on your shop floor right now. They’re looking for a job. They’ve just retired and want to find part-time work. Or they’re completing college, technical school or high school and beginning a job search.

Those looking for jobs are looking for a company willing to acknowledge that work-life balance is critical for all individuals. One that will provide the skills and training needed to do their job right but will also use their skills and talents to their potential. One that knows when the people thrive, the company will succeed and make a difference. A company where, in going the extra mile to get the job done, someone has their back, and will appreciate, acknowledge and reward those efforts. They’re looking for a company which asks for feedback, then listens and responds in a way which sends the message “Your input counts!” They want to be empowered employees who know and understand the company’s clear goals and have been given both the responsibility and the authority to ‘fix what bugs them’—to make changes in their jobs allowing work to be easier and more efficient. They want to be mentored and encouraged to learn, as well as allowed to fail. When an organization gets to a point where failures are simply a lesson to learn and a chance to identify areas for improvement – instead of who can we blame –  and successes are celebrated regularly, you will have a culture of motivated, dedicated, loyal and empowered employees. Then, you will have a culture that attracts the best and brightest employees. And that will always be your competitive advantage. Because your quality, service and on-time delivery are dependent on this team of people! Recognizing culture as a competitive advantage will help you win the race for people and business!

Culture is Your Competitive Advantage Workshop

Susan Hileman will facilitate a workshop in Franklin PA on June 8, Culture is Your Competitive Advantage. The program will focus on 5 best practices to improve company culture and become an employer of choice. Find more details at