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News & Blog

The latest workforce & staffing insights and info from our manufacturing industry experts
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Diversity at Engauge!

BizTimes Media's Special Report: Diversity & Inclusion

April 27, 2020

Engauge is proud to be part of the region’s initiative to increase diversity in the workforce of area companies. Diversity is not just important, it’s part of the core fabric of who we are!

Click here to read the full issue and find Engauge featured on page 35.

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Making Lemonade Out of Lemons: Finding Ways to Create Value During a Crisis

Part 3 of 3: The longer term impact of Covid-19

By: Katie Malnight Meisinger | Vice President of Operations

April 24, 2020

Today, in the last of our 3-part series on finding ways to create value during the COVID-19 crisis, I want to focus on the long-term implications. So much of what is talked about in the current crisis is short-term and largely outside of our control (when will the stay at home orders be lifted, when will my business be allowed to reopen). I think it is important to take time to step back and reflect on how the COVID-19 crisis will impact our businesses over the long-term. I think doing so might help us realize that the current crisis has in many ways simply amplified and accelerated issues that have been lurking beneath the surface for a while. By taking the time now to dig into areas where business is likely to be permanently impacted, we can all start the work of pivoting our organizations so they can emerge stronger and better equipped to address future volatility.  

New Ways of Thinking as a Result of the COVID-19 Crisis

The Need for More Flexible Planning

The speed of the crisis is what has left everyone reeling. One day things were relatively normal and two days later the bottom dropped out. We are concerned that too many companies are focused on making it through the crisis with the assumption that at some point things will “return to normal”. It is not clear that is going to happen any time soon, so we believe companies need to start thinking in terms of increasing their organizational flexibility so you can deal with changes more effectively and rapidly than you have in the past. Daily huddles. Producing in smaller lot sizes. Shorter-term planning horizons (weekly/monthly). More consistent communication with customers and not just when you are trying to sell them something or deal with a performance issue. This situation reminds me of one of my favorite sayings: “It is important to distinguish between a problem and a dilemma because a problem you try and solve and a dilemma you learn to live with”. The ongoing impact of COVID-19 (and out of the blue business interruption) is clearly a dilemma.

Increased Worker Absenteeism

Workers could be absent because they are sick, are caregivers for sick family members, are caregivers for children if schools or daycare centers are closed, have at-risk people at home (such as immunocompromised family members), or are afraid to come to work because of fear of possible exposure. This is likely to continue for some time, so companies need to be better prepared to backfill for absent workers and come up with strategies to make sure key functions/competencies are not dependent on just one person. This may require an entirely different way of thinking about your workforce.

Change in Patterns of Commerce

This has been one of the most difficult issues for companies to handle. Consumer demand for items related to infection prevention and basic necessities spiked overnight, while consumer interest in other goods declined dramatically. This, in turn, resulted in huge swings in demand between businesses depending upon the segment and distribution channel. These demand patterns are just as likely to change dramatically in a different direction over the next 30, 60, 90 days as “Safer at Home” initiatives eventually wind down. So rather than planning on dealing with volatility for the next few months, we believe the best thing is to assume it is going to remain highly volatile for the foreseeable future and develop better coping mechanisms. A few examples:

  • Look for longer-term, likely permanent changes in demand (e.g. hand sanitizer). While the demand may go down a bit as the crisis lessens, the level of sales has probably been permanently altered upward.
  • Don’t jump in on a short-term opportunity that may leave you just starting to produce things as demand goes down. (e.g. the demand for PPE will eventually be filled. Don’t put yourself in a position that your line is just starting to run these kind of products as demand plateaus). Do a thorough investigation of anything that is outside of your core area (whether market, customer or product/process type) and make as intelligent a decision as you can.
  • Have backup plans for every single source/critical supplier you have. There are going to be ongoing disruptions for the foreseeable future.
  • And, as indicated above, shorten your feedback loops with your customers. You need to be in almost daily contact to get a good and real-time indication on orders, future opportunities, and the strength of their position. The lower you are in the food chain (e.g. you supply someone who supplies someone), the more vulnerable you are.

I believe that going forward, companies will need a fundamentally different way of forecasting future demand.

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Making Lemonade Out of Lemons: Finding Ways to Create Value During a Crisis

Part 2 of 3: Doubling Down on Human Capital

By: Katie Malnight Meisinger | Vice President of Operations

April 16, 2020

Last week, I shared some ideas for how to strengthen your operations during the COVID-19 lockdown. Today’s focus will pivot to human capital. Specifically: how can you support your employees in the short-term while also strengthening your workforce for the long-term? Below are a few ideas we have seen work at our clients:

1) Focus on Building a Bench

The current crisis has amplified most companies’ dependence on a handful of highly skilled, older workers. This has been an increasingly critical problem as Baby Boomers continue to retire and companies have become hard-pressed to find comparable replacements in a younger cohort. In the current crisis, the problem has become even more acute as older workers are more susceptible to COVID-19.

To address these challenges, leadership must make expanding the skillset of younger generations a top priority. There are numerous ways to do this:

  • Codify the knowledge of your highly skilled workers
  • Job shadow with younger workers
  • Move your key skilled workers into more coaching roles vs. doing-the-work roles

The main point is that leadership needs to take this problem seriously. This crisis has given you an opportunity to take the reins to set your workforce up for long-term sustainability. Take advantage of it.

2) Supplement overtime so you don’t burn out your current workforce

While it is logical to hunker down in the current crisis, if you aren’t careful, workforce reductions can put too much stress on your current workers. A couple of suggestions to ease the strain:

  • If you are working weekends or extended hours, go to Green and Gold teams (this is Wisconsin, so it has to be Green and Gold. 😊) that work every other weekend. Or create contests that allow the winning team to get first choice on extra hours. This way, at least people get an occasional break and feel like they have some control over their time.
  • Consider using contingent workers on off-hours or more unpopular shifts. There also may be an opportunity to find a highly skilled senior worker who is currently laid off (more on that below).

3) Start building a workforce for the future

Related to the concept of building a bench, companies need to be much more intentional about beginning to build the workforce of the future. What do I mean by this? Manufacturing is becoming more technical and more computer-driven. This is where your youngers workers can likely help you. Use the (normally younger) more tech/digitally savvy members of your workforce to transition current manual ways of doing things. Have them work with less tech savvy employees to get their buy in and to help them become more technically literate. Making a conscious effort in this area will pay huge dividends, both in how you do your work and how you build constructive, positive relationships within your multi-generational workforce.

We hope these ideas help you think through ways you can take a step back from current challenges and find ways to add value in a difficult time. Next week, we will wrap up our COVID-19 series by doing just that: taking a step back to evaluate some of the broader impacts and implications of the current crisis and what they mean for your organization.

In the meantime, and on behalf of the entire Engauge team, I wish you, your families, and your employees the best of health.

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Making Lemonade Out of Lemons: Finding Ways to Create Value During a Crisis

Part 1 of 3: Strengthening Operations

By: Katie Malnight Meisinger | Vice President of Operations

April 8, 2020

If your inbox is anything like mine, you’ve been inundated with emails about COVID-19 and how to protect your company and your employees. While these notifications are necessary (we’ve got our own FAQs posted in case you’re interested), at Engauge we’ve been thinking about how we can leverage our 25+ years of experience working in the local community to go beyond warnings and help people create value during this challenging time.

While you have little control over the external environment, you can control how you respond and there are a number of things you can do now to help set your company and your employees up for a stronger future. So, in this spirit, today I am kicking off a series of posts over the coming weeks where I will share some tactical ideas you can implement immediately to help your business and your employees as we work through the COVID-19 crisis.

To start, I want to talk about Operations. We know you’ve had to adjust – from managing temporary shutdowns to coping with supply chain disruptions. Despite these challenges, here are a few ideas for how you can actually strengthen your operations while being mindful of COVID-19 restrictions:

1) Take the time to do Preventative Maintenance

This is a perfect time to catch up on your preventative maintenance program. We have several clients that have a skeleton crew going through the plant doing PM’s to either catch up where they are behind or get ahead so when your production returns to normal you are well prepared to support it.

2) Retool shop floor practices to support demand volatility

One of the hardest things to deal with right now is the inconsistency in production orders. And the more layers above you (i.e., you are supplying a customer that is supplying another customer, etc.), the more your schedules are likely to fluctuate unpredictably. There are several ways to improve your ability to handle this new production volatility:

  • Learn how to produce in smaller lot sizes. This is the only sustainable way to not be whipsawed by changes in demand.
  • Analyze your overall production processes and identify ways to move towards continuous flow. Identify production bottlenecks, look for ways to reduce lot sizes, and maximize operator efficiency.
  • Build a buffer inventory: we know, we know, while this sounds like the opposite of lean principals, in the current environment, it may make sense to build a buffer inventory of some critical components, particularly if they have high setup times.
  • And speaking of set up times, do a Pareto of your setup times and work to improve them. We know of one company that reduced the setup time for several of their injection molding presses from 8 hours to 1.5 hours. Do a mini challenge on setup time reduction (for a fun team-building opportunity, make it a virtual pizza party).

These are just a few ways we have seen companies find opportunities to create value during an undoubtedly challenging situation. I hope these ideas help you as well. Stay tuned – next week I’ll be sharing some ideas on ways to strengthen your human capital.

In the meantime, and on behalf of the entire Engauge team, I wish you, your families, and your employees the best of health.

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2020 Best of Staffing Client Award for service excellence!

Engauge Workforce Solutions received a world-class rating with satisfaction scores of 9 or 10 out of 10 from 90.7% of their clients; significantly higher than the industry’s average of 24%.

Fewer than 2% of all staffing agencies in the U.S. and Canada earned this year's Best of Staffing award

February 4, 2020

Engauge Workforce Solutions, a leading workforce solutions company announced today that they have won Best of Staffing Client Award for providing superior service to their clients. Presented in partnership with sponsors, CareerBuilder, Indeed and Glassdoor, ClearlyRated's Best of Staffing® Award winners have proven to be industry leaders in service quality based entirely on ratings provided by their clients. On average, clients of winning agencies are 3.3 times more likely to be completely satisfied with the services provided compared to those working with non-winning agencies.

Engauge Workforce Solutions received a world-class rating with satisfaction scores of 9 or 10 out of 10 from 90.7% of their clients; significantly higher than the industry’s average of 24%.

“We are delighted to receive this award for the 4th year in a row. To be recognized as a Best of Staffing provider is a testament to the dedication and passion of the Engauge team members and the support of our clients” said Engauge Workforce Solutions Managing Director Kim Korth. “We take our mission of serving the needs of both our associates and our clients very seriously. Without the hard work and dedication of the Engauge associates, we would never have won this award.”

“Now more than ever, it is important for staffing firms to deliver consistently remarkable experiences to the clients and talent they work with,” said ClearlyRated’s CEO Eric Gregg. “This year’s Best of Staffing winners have shown their commitment to exceptional service, committing to not only measuring satisfaction, but taking action on the feedback. I couldn't be more proud to showcase these industry leaders alongside feedback from their actual clients and candidates on ClearlyRated.com and applaud them for their commitment to making improvements at their respective firms!”

About Engauge Workforce Solutions
Engauge cares passionately about the role we play in transforming workforce development. For too long, the staffing experience for both clients and associates has been limited in value and far too transactional. Engauge proactively plays the role of catalyst and partner between our clients and our associates. Our team operates with “why” in mind so we make sure we understand how to create the best solutions for our clients and the right fit for our associates.

About ClearlyRated
Rooted in satisfaction research for professional service firms, ClearlyRated utilizes a Net Promoter Score survey program to help professional service firms measure their service experience, build online reputation, and differentiate on service quality. Click to learn more about ClearlyRated.

About Best of Staffing
ClearlyRated's Best of Staffing® Award is the only award in the U.S. and Canada that recognizes staffing agencies that have proven superior service quality based entirely on ratings provided by their clients and job candidates. Award winners are showcased by city and area of expertise on ClearlyRated.com – an online business directory that helps buyers of professional services find service leaders and vet prospective firms – based exclusively on validated client and talent ratings and testimonials.