To Find New Employees, Look to the Current Ones

For a leading lean manufacturer in the Northeast, offering incentives to current employees has proven to be the most effective route to finding quality new hires.
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There is an axiom that says your best source of new business is your existing customers. At AccuRounds, co-owner Michael Tamasi says the best source of new employees is the current workforce. The shop pays bonuses to employees who refer other employees—payable if the new employee is still with the shop after 6 months.

The need for employees has been high lately. AccuRounds is a contract manufacturer in Avon, Massachusetts providing components and subassemblies to customers in the medical, semiconductor and defense sectors (among others). Business dropped after the 2008 crash, but it got strong again late the following year. Staffing now stands at 62, eight of whom have been hired in the last several months. The shop’s hiring continues.

However, “finding good people is very difficult,” Mr. Tamasi says. The shop’s criteria go well beyond machining skills. In fact, machining skills are not essential. “We’d love every new hire to be a skilled CNC machinist, but that’s not possible.” The truly essential qualifications have to do with attitude.

To be sure, this is a cliché. Every employer claims to value attitude. But at AccuRounds, the employees’ attentiveness and flexibility are key. This shop is distinctive for its focus on lean—the first metalworking contract manufacturer to win the Northeast Shingo Prize. The lean process here depends on both employee discipline and employee engagement.

“We are looking for people who have the ability to learn and follow an established process,” Mr. Tamasi says. Lean requires this. In fact, the AccuRounds process might require an employee to perform not just machine load/unload, but all of the steps in a value stream reaching from bar stock to the packaged part.

Meanwhile, he says, “We also need each employee to be able to stand back from the process and pose questions,” because continuous improvement does not happen any other way. Given these various requirements, even employee prospects with strong machining experience might not be judged strong candidates.

AccuRounds employees participate on the advisory board of a local vocational technical school. They find this involvement valuable for being able to shape and develop curricula, as well as spot the kind of talent the shop is seeking. Even so, Mr. Tamasi says incentivizing employees to search their own contacts for talent has easily proven to be the best source of lasting new hires.

There are at least two reasons for this, he says. One, the employees are good filters—they know what kinds of employees thrive in the shop, and they can spot the good fits among their own associates. But beyond that, there are also the tight networks of the local immigrant communities. Through the networks of shared cultural background, some of the AccuRounds employees who are foreign-born connect the shop to talent pools the company might not be able to reach in any other way.