How a Large Shop Attracts and Retains Employees

At the recent Top Shops conference, the COO of Major Tool and Machine offered thoughts about attracting, developing and retaining shopfloor employees.


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The workforce development panel I moderated at our Top Shops conference this past September in Indianapolis, Indiana, consisted of a diverse group of people from different organizations. One panelist was Mike Griffith, chief operating officer of Indianapolis-based Major Tool and Machine, a 600,000-square-foot operation with 400 employees. As Mr. Griffith mentioned, not only does the size of this company present unique challenges in terms of attracting, developing and retaining manufacturing employees, but so does its location. Competition for employees in Indiana is high, given that the state has more than 8,000 manufacturers. The shop realizes this requires significant effort and investment on its part to attract the best and brightest. Here are three examples of challenges cited during our panel discussion:

  • Employee development. In-house training is recognized as essential, which is why Major Tool and Machine has a full-time machining instructor and offers a formal machinist training program. The six-month program targets students from technical colleges and high school vocational programs. Each class accommodates as many as five students. Half of their day is spent in the training program, and the other half is spent rotating through different departments on the shop floor. The program covers a range of topics, including blueprint reading, shop math, and geometric dimensioning and tolerancing (GD&T). The goal is to develop machinists, not machine operators. The shop has a similar welder training program with full-time instructor.
  • Employee care. Major Tool and Machine has made a large investment in promoting employee wellness. In addition to its self-funded employee medical program, it has an on-site health clinic available to employees and their family members staffed with a fulltime doctor, physician’s assistant and medical assistant. Pre-employment physicals are performed there, and the company’s wellness program is managed there. Major Tool and Machine also pays employees to have an annual physical. In some cases, physicals have unveiled conditions that otherwise would have gone unnoticed. It has a fully equipped fitness center with lockers and showers, too.
  • Employee engagement. Major Tool and Machine works to have an engaged workforce. It created a café with self-serve vending systems to promote employee interaction. The shop also has an activities area for games such as ping pong and cornhole, a general employee communication area, and an all-employee meeting space.

It’s clear to the shop that it needs good people to survive. These investments, in addition to offering competitive pay, are examples of how it is working to entice and keep them.