Q&A: Treating your employees right

Boating Industry: How many employees do you have on your team today? And how does that number compare to the same time last year?

We are just hiring up to 225 employees versus a peak of about 450. Last year at this time, we had about 140.

It is important to note that these numbers are meaningless, though, without considering productivity. We have dramatically increased our productivity in two ways. Our Lean Six Sigma implementation has had a dramatic impact on how we build boats, all for the better. We can now build higher quality boats at fewer hours. That has been a huge win for us.

Secondly, we reworked our business model at the start of the downturn, which forced us to look at everything we do differently, and we found many opportunities to be more productive. The huge positive that has come out of the economic downturn is that companies have learned to be much more productive. Now, to bring it back to your question, we get a lot more done with 225 employees than we would have a few year ago.

Boating Industry: How would you describe the culture at your company? What are its strengths and weaknesses?

The strengths of our culture are that we are very creative and results-oriented. We don’t hide from issues. We engage each other in conflict. We don’t run from it. Our culture is very energizing.

The downside would be, for someone who has worked for years in other organizations with bad cultures, our culture can at first be uncomfortable. If you would rather lay under the radar or avoid issues, Correct Craft is not the place to be.

Another part of our culture that is important is our desire to give back to the world around us. Again, we don’t just talk about this. We live it out. We have local community service projects and have plans to take employees to work on a Habitat for Humanity project.

Boating Industry: Please explain your strategy as it relates to employee satisfaction.

We obviously want our employees to be satisfied, and Human Resources is a critical part of our Strategic Plan.

We do an employee survey each year to measure how we are doing. Most companies think their employees are happy, but an employee survey helps validate that assumption. If the survey is anonymous and well done, it will provide tremendous information.

For 2011, we are focusing on two areas with our employee development: personal finance and fitness. Our director of HR has attended a Train the Trainer course on personal finance and will soon be offering voluntary classes to our employees to help them with personal finance. On the fitness side, we are opening an employee gym/fitness center in our factory. It will provide employees with a gym where they can do cardio, flexibility and resistance exercises. We believe that employees who are fit benefit personally in a big way, and the company benefits too.

Boating Industry: What is most outstanding about the experience of working for your company?

I don’t know that I could describe just one thing. We try to give a great overall experience. One thing, though, that I have not mentioned yet is that every one of our employees is on an employee incentive plan. We believe that it is important to reinforce our culture with incentives that allow employees to benefit from the results. Employees are paid their incentive quarterly and love getting the checks. This plan has significantly reinforced our culture of continuous improvement.

Boating Industry: In your employment history, which job experience has most influenced your employee relations philosophy today?
It is really hard for me to narrow this down to one thing. It starts with the way I was raised by my parents to treat people right. That approach to people is reinforced by my faith.

I have also learned from my own experience how much more productive I am and how loyal I am when I am treated right.

Even in the darkest moments of the boating market crash, we gave most of the employees we let go three months training in various technical and life skills before we let them go. It is important to me to treat people right.

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