Can there be an HR checklist for career advancement created?

As we continue to build the structure of the business to support product manufacturing, you will see more structure around career path and training that is available to achieve your desired career. Included in that might be a checklist of certifications or qualifications to achieve, pay ranges, training available by the company, and more. We have begun work on this, but we are not anticipating finishing this project during this term.

If employees don’t understand a concept, explain it; don’t treat them as if they are too unintelligent to understand.

100% agree with this statement. Seeking to understand is a critical part of this company, but we can always improve at this. At times it may not be beneficial to explain everything all the time, but this is where standup meetings with each department are key. If you have a question, please speak up to ask. If you have a question and see a leader/manager anywhere, track them down and ask them about it! If you feel that leaders/managers aren’t approachable, please know that they are. As a company, we are attempting to provide leadership training across the board to ensure our leaders can recognize their strengths and weaknesses while having the necessary tools to lead this company with understanding and compassion. There is no such thing as a stupid question, so be curious and ask!

What are the Term 2 Rocks that were chosen by the Leadership Team?

This is a great question! The Leadership Team has prioritized the following items as Term 2 Rocks to tackle:

  1. Communication: daily meetings for all to start with, then build on those!
  2. Late Jobs: Prioritize then get them out of here!
  3. RW/IRWs: Evaluate, analyze, and reduce/eradicate root causes!
  4. Data: Rebuild our data infrastructure to support reports that can lead to action and decisions!
  5. Inventory Jobs: Start with Custom Truck and expand to other repeat products for simplicity! 

Additional issues being addressed explicitly this term: quoting process overhaul, help for shift supervisors, employee appreciation, handbook, leadership training, capacity/scheduling, quality, preproduction department standardization, preproduction priorities, and simplifying the IRW process.

There are lots of meetings at this company – is there value in all these?

Meetings have a purpose and place. Ultimately, the meeting needs to be valuable for it to be effective. That means it will need to have a good leader, good participation, and clear action items assigned upon its conclusion. If all those components are there, it will be hard to have too many meetings.

There needs to be a better way of reaching production or shift managers.

We plan to have a standing meeting every morning for all production employees which is a good start. That meeting will be held in the same location around the department boards. As I believe this question is centered around how to reach managers during the middle of the day, those department boards will soon have walkie-talkies and contact instructions for managers and other departments. In the future, we are working on large lights that would be able to flash or change colors to visually signal the need for assistance, which managers will be instructed to keep an eye on in case they are needed.

There needs to be better communication between depts within the office.

We would like to begin morning standups for all departments company-wide, including office departments. We feel that consistent and dedicated time to focus on daily priorities, issues, and goals would provide a platform that will help reduce or eliminate the dysfunction in communication we tend to find ourselves these days. This term we plan to address this issue specifically and intentionally.

Will breakout group feedback actually be used/listened to?

Yes, it actually will…and is! We, as a Leadership Team, have historically used it as an integral part of our planning process, particularly centered around prioritizing what items to focus our attention on. This term we are attempting to make that more visible by doing 2 things:

  1. Responding to these general comments in a timely manner.
  2. Publishing the breakout feedback to the department boards and giving daily/weekly status updates to the relevant department as well as sharing who is championing those issues.

We hope that by doing this, it will provide insight and transparency on what is happening with your feedback and how it is being addressed on a regular basis. We are open to further suggestions on how we can improve this plan or process.

What steps would employees see physically or on paper to know that there is work or progress fixing the communication problems?

Communication has been a point of concern since we started our EOS meetings and long before! Ron Martin mentioned in the offsite that it probably will never be solved fully as there will always be room for improvement; however, there are several things we are doing that we believe will help improve this in the upcoming term.

  1. We are publishing the general comments/questions mentioned on the sheets with responses, starting with this list.
  2. We will be publishing the breakout feedback with individuals assigned to each issue or rock. We will be providing daily or weekly feedback on the items there during the department board meetings.
  3. We will be keeping a status bar on the newsletter which includes % completion of the issues raised at the offsite. There were 86 issues mentioned in total, some more significant than others.

These 3 items are just the start, but we hope it is a visible and tangible way to track the communication at the company with honesty and transparency.

Do we ask employees before placing them on marketing material?

This question has been raised previously. Within our handbook under the section ‘Consent to Record’, we stipulate our policy on how we use photographs of our employees in our marketing material. We value our employees and see them as our most important asset, so we love sharing you all with the world! And as we see ourselves as a team, we believe it is in the company’s best interests to be able to promote using our best foot forward, using the best shots without restrictions.

However, much of this might be a moot point since as we migrate more towards product manufacturing, our external marketing efforts will diminish and will be replaced with communication directly to our customers to let them know how their project is progressing. Having employees represent the company externally will continue, but it will certainly look different as we move towards product manufacturing.

Will VMF replace Thomasville on the building eventually?

This is a difficult question for a couple reasons. As a simple way to answer the question: probably. There are 3 primary factors to consider:

  1. We do not own the building. We have been given permission from the current building owner to change the branding on the building, so that’s a start. But while our intent is to stay here long-term, things could change if the building were to be sold or if we would decide building a structure on our own land would make more sense. However, this is the easiest thing to deal with of the 3 factors and one we believe could accommodate us if we wanted to put our logo on the building.
  2. We would need to receive approval from the town. The town has very specific laws regarding signage within its domain and there is a lengthy process to deal with this. It may come down to us submitting a permit request and the committee could deny it because they do not approve for one reason or another. But if we were to proceed, we would need the town’s approval.
  3. Lastly, this building is historic for this community. If you speak with anyone from this area, no matter what sign or logo is on the building, they will most likely refer to it as Thomasville in one form or another. We would need to consider the positives and negatives the community would feel if we would change the signage on the building.

So in some form or fashion Thomasville will most likely remain the name of the building in some form or fashion. What that means? We’re not entirely sure. Will the same sign stay where it is exactly as it is? Probably not. Will VMF be added to signage on the building in the future? Probably. But what the signage looks like in 5 years, we do not know precisely. Great question!

There should have been a breakout session for office employees; there are many issues that need to be addressed.

In retrospect, we should have. Next offsite we will be intentional regarding groups and may have some more changes on how they are broken out. However, if there are known issues, please raise those with either your manager or Brian to ensure these are cataloged and addressed appropriately. This term, we do plan to roll out daily meetings for the office which will hopefully help fill the gap mentioned here regarding issues that need addressed.

I believe the company needs to appreciate the positives instead of only noticing mistakes or negatives. Employees need to feel they are doing things right in addition to just doing things wrong.

As mentioned at the offsite, our core focus this year is our employees. Frankly, this will take time to incorporate into our DNA and culture. That may sound sad to say, but we are a company with struggles and part of that is demonstrating how much we appreciate our employees. However, we are beginning to be intentional with our focus on employees: Canteen, Employee of the Week, some climate control, appreciation days, etc. These are the first steps towards many in creating a culture where positives are noticed and communicated as much or preferably more than negatives. Bear with us, we’re still learning.

Will ice pops come back? That was nice to have once in a while.

As we look to our employees for guidance on how best to show appreciation, this was originally not something we thought was valued. That does not seem to be the case, however. Therefore we are pleased to continue to provide this simple way we can appreciate employees and there’s no reason it can’t continue. Maybe it looks different, but we’ll work on how we can be intentional with things like this to appreciate our employees.

Can we get items for use during lunchtime activities (cornhole, volleyball, grill, etc)?

As we continue to focus on how to appreciate employees better, we would love to invest in these items. Please let us know what you’d like to see! (Brian challenges anyone to a game of cornhole.)

Material handlers would be highly beneficial, particularly if we haven’t given forklift licenses out recently.

Coming to this larger facility, we were excited to be able to utilize the space to accommodate our growth. But being more spread out, we realized we were going to need to be more efficient with moving material around. PNutt’s role was specifically created originally to manage and move material effectively. That role has changed over time and become more narrow and specific. After touring Thomasville countless times and seeing giant dents in the structural supports, we realized how important safety was going to become with forklifts being able to go faster than at the old shop in Gladstone. Through an external safety audit, we were made aware of the intensive requirements OSHA places on those who use forklifts as well.

After arriving here at Thomasville, we built a lot of flexibility into the flow and floor plan, but had so much to do still once we began production here. The details of how many positions per shift has been difficult for us to determine based on work volume, and needing to load/unload the Eagle, and Munters to begin the year. We still intend to move to material handlers as a full-time position, but that may look different as we grow further and to multiple shifts. We plan to finalize these positions and plans in the upcoming term.

There needs to be a way to keep everyone on task and held accountable to their job performance.

In EOS, the goal of the accountability chart is to:

     A) Identify the position title, what position it reports to, and what department in which it belongs.

     B) List 3-5 core functions of the position that summarizes the focus of that role.

     C) Establish 2-3 metrics that define success for that position.

As we shared at our offsite, we feel confident we have taken care of A and most of B for most positions at the company. During this term we plan to finalize B to ensure each job description can include the 3-5 most important core functions as well as defining C which would provide the context of success. As part of the Leadership Team Rocks for this term, data is a focus which will dovetail into creating appropriate reporting that can help communicate how successful each employee is being towards accomplishing C for them.

We hope to utilize the department communication boards to cascade these reports and numbers for an entire department as well as potentially each position within those departments. This will help communicate expectations and show progress toward the success of those metrics and tasks, hopefully giving transparency on whether you were winning or losing the day.

Is there a better system to inform General Laborers where they can help instead of waiting around to be sent to work on something?

The General Laborer position became a great way for us to hire great employees who could help on the first day without needing lots of training. Our work was exceptionally heavy due to Munters which necessitated mass hiring to keep up with kitting and feeding the cut department. Now that we have the ability to breathe, we are evaluating the role further. We are in the process of building tiers within this position that allows for growth and appropriate compensation while being versatile to ebb and flow with the workload. Stay tuned for more on this within the next couple of weeks!

There should be more published/used reports, plans, and schedules as that would help communication and plans for employees.

We want to provide much more information directly to employees and are working at developing dashboards and broadcasting systems/processes that would work in tandem with the department communication boards and daily meetings company-wide. We plan to utilize PowerBI (a Microsoft software for reporting) as well as shop-wide, departmental, and position-specific reports and communication. This is a huge focus for the company this term, so you will be hearing much more about this as these are developed. If you have any suggestions or questions, please come see Brian!

There needs to be a better hot job process / system.

When we first started expanding our relationship with Altec, hot jobs were a “hot” topic. It disrupted our workflow and placed an undue burden on the production department to accommodate Altec’s seemingly constant short lead times. We looked into how to develop a hot job report, but we quickly abandoned the process and simply worked off a word-of-mouth approach that was communicated to departments at the beginning of each shift…and in the middle…and all the time.

Those hot jobs for Altec led into our time where we fell behind last summer and again this winter, causing us to shift our focus from hot jobs to late jobs. We adapted that word-of-mouth process for late jobs and everyone can agree we could improve that process.

Ultimately, understanding our capacity and scheduling appropriately is the foundation that we can build hot jobs and late jobs into. As we move towards product manufacturing, we are hoping that this will become less of an issue, but we still do need to develop this process. The recently created Process Department (will be led by Callan Dudley) will tackle this issue by reviewing how/what we currently do, what other companies do, if we should change our digital schedule to accommodate these jobs (Foreman’s Report), or if there is a physical way to show its importance (ex. red cone on a skid to signify it is a hot job). This will be an item the Process Department will tackle this year, though it may not be this term. However, since this was an issue raised during a breakout session, this will be worked on during this term and will be presented to our Process Department as it is being addressed. Stay tuned for more info!

There seems to be a negative perception when PTO is used (whether planned or unplanned).

Work-life balance is a crucial part of navigating life as a professional. VMF is growing as an organization and has placed a focus on appreciation its employees. One of the specific areas employees asked for improvement was in PTO which resulted in a change to our PTO policy and which led to a significant increase to the PTO portion of our compensation and benefit package. While this increase in PTO is intended to help cover sick time and bereavement that previously weren’t available, this was also intended to encourage you to take breaks to help you with your personal work-life balance. If there is a conversation with a manager to be had, please engage with it or come discuss it with Brian or Human Resources. We want employees to feel appreciated and if there is a barrier for some reason regarding this issue, please feel comfortable speaking up in a professional and appropriate way.

I think evaluations should be done by individuals who are constantly on the floor, not employees who don’t spend all day, every day with them; you will get a more accurate evaluation and better feedback.

Currently, we have had our evaluations documented on a weekly basis with all supervisors or managers. Human Resources has asked for robust and thorough feedback, both positive and negative, which is eventually compiled at the end of the term to provide an overarching theme for the entire term. While this is not a perfect system, it is an improvement to simply filling out the term review all at the end of the term.

It seems that feedback from the Technical Leads would also prove to be beneficial and certainly can provide insight that a supervisor or other member of the management team may not have. This is a suggestion that will be taken into account and will be reviewed by Human Resources. Thank you for the feedback!

Is there a consideration for the office to have flexible hours? (4-10s or 8 hr days instead of 8.5 hr days)

When the question regarding shift hours on the feedback form was presented, it was primarily intended for the production staff; however, many employees in the office commented and there were several who asked this very question.

As it stands, the office is officially open from 7 am – 4 pm, Mon to Fri. During primary production hours we require support departments to have an employee available to assist if needed, which means the 7am – 4pm hours are set; however, outside of that requirement it is up to the manager of each department to accommodate the workload of that department and the hours worked by each employee. Given the company’s shift in direction towards product manufacturing and the feedback given, we will try to see if there are alternatives available for our office staff for a more flexible schedule that makes sense for the company and for office employees alike. Schedules are always complicated, but if we can make improvements, we should!

It would be helpful to have all departments be trained on QC fluency (tolerances, standards, drawings, etc).

As we continue to build around our knowledgeable Technical Leads, we are going to lean on them to help maintain a high standard for our quality in the shop. That means training or retraining on how to examine parts and tolerances to ensure each department is capable of meeting customer expectations for quality, which will allow our QC department to migrate more towards a training and QA department. We plan to place a high emphasis on this in the coming months to see substantial changes to our quality process this term.

Can the company provide management training for either current managers or employees looking to become managers?

Becoming a leader is hard work. It requires much mental and emotional energy and drains you in a different way than physical labor. It is important, nonetheless, to improve and focus on growing your skillset regardless of your role in the company. Whether you are a leader now or want to become a leader in the future, the company wants to invest in you to become one. Taking the Behavior Style survey (Talker, Doer, Supporter, & Controller) we briefly took at the offsite was a step we have already taken towards that! We want to provide hands-on training, soft skills training, classroom training, and much more to help prepare our leaders to become the best they can be. It’s a focus that we will be placing much emphasis on in this term, so stay tuned for more updates here!

Can we get more training on JobBoss?

JobBoss has rather robust videos and technical documents online explaining how to properly utilize its software. Where it gets difficult is knowing what modules we own and what those modules have the ability to do. That being said, the Process Department will begin to compile our existing JobBoss documentation to ensure we can provide adequate training for our employees. We will continue to develop these internal training resources until we need to adapt to the new version of JobBoss, if that makes sense for our organization. In the interim, please let us know if there are specific questions you may have pertaining to JobBoss, and we will do our best to answer these questions or find the resources JobBoss has online to answer these!