Friday, February 22, 2013

Manufacturing: America’s (and Michigan’s) Top Priority

In his State of the Union Address last week, President Obama exclaimed, “Our first priority is making America a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing.” Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike all agree: manufacturing growth is critical to our country’s success.

Over the course of last year, economists, media pundits and legislators joined together to hail the resurgence of American manufacturing. After losing manufacturing positions over the course of the last decade, approximately half a million new manufacturing jobs have been added to our economy. From automobile manufacturers to tech companies, the President cited how companies like Caterpillar, Ford, Intel and Apple are all shifting production and jobs from other countries back to the U.S.

As we continue into 2013, we must build upon the momentum of America’s manufacturing comeback. We can do this by achieving two key objectives:
  1. Create a culture that supports local manufacturers.
  2. Promote the growth of our state’s manufacturers.

Accomplishing objective #1 actually doesn’t need to be too complicated. If you’re an individual looking to buy a product or an organization looking for suppliers, support Michigan. For example, you can do this by embracing the companies who are Proud to Manufacture in Michigan. You can click here to see an online directory of state manufacturers. Stick with Michigan… and spread the word!

If you’re a manufacturer, objective #2 should be critical to you this year. Depending on your specific line of business, there are numerous ways you support the growth of your organization such as embracing innovation, developing new business through different means such as market diversification, exporting or lead generation and implementing lean practices. MMTC provides numerous services to help manufacturers grow. You can click here to see a list of our services.

This is just the tip of the service iceberg. Michigan is rich with support services for manufacturers. From the Michigan Manufacturers Association, regional chambers and organizations like Automation Alley, resources are available. New programs and opportunities abound as more and more organizations begin to implement these strategic plans, from advanced manufacturing and contract manufacturing initiatives to Economic Gardening.  

Why is this important to Michigan? Manufacturing plays a vital role in the states’ economic development. The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) states that manufacturing accounts for nearly 16 percent of the state’s total output. This is critical for job creation – the manufacturing field employs 12.5 percent of our state’s workforce, and exported goods support nearly 270,000 Michigan jobs across all sectors. When manufacturing improves – Michigan’s economy improves!

We’re glad people are finally realizing what we’ve always known; manufacturing drives the economy. So whether you’re a manufacturer, a professional from another industry or an individual consumer, supporting the manufacturing sector should be a top priority this year!

Friday, February 15, 2013

How High is Your EIQ?

In a recent Family Business Advisor session, the concept of Emotional Intelligence was raised.  Traditionally, a person’s intelligence is measured using an Intelligence Quotient (IQ) Test.  The IQ test is a measure of a person’s general intelligence, but it does nothing to measure a person’s ability to succeed as a leader.  Your Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EIQ) may be a better way to measure how well you will do as a leader.
The concept of Emotional Intelligence (EI) was mainstreamed by Daniel Goleman in his book “Emotional Intelligence – Why it Can Matter More than IQ”.  In his groundbreaking book, Goleman defines EI as The ability to perceive and understand personal feelings and those of others. Emotional intelligence means recognizing emotions and acting on them in a reflective and rational manner. It involves self-awareness, empathy, and self-restraint. Goleman posits that there are five main constructs that make up Emotional Intelligence:

1)   Self Awareness
2)   Self Regulation
3)   Social Skill
4)   Empathy
5)   Motivation
Goleman stated that these five traits are not innate talents, but are learned capabilities that must be worked on often.  According to Goleman, you can raise your emotional intelligence with a little bit of effort, which is good news considering how important EI actually is when it comes to leadership. In the workplace, EI can greatly enhance interpersonal communication and people skills.  If you are a leader with a high EIQ, you will have a very strong chance of successfully leading your team.
A good place to start with EI is to work on your own self-awareness. It is important to think about things from other people’s perspectives, reflect on your actions and interactions with others, and get feedback from people on low EI behaviors.  Of course it is also good to have a baseline. There are several online EIQ tests that are free and easy to take like: Don’t worry if you score too low, EI can be improved with a little bit of work and some honest feedback.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Workforce Buy-In: The Key to Sustaining Results

When you make operational changes to either become more efficient or to grow, it’s just as important that your team understands and embraces the importance of the changes. It’s also critical that employees have buy-in from the beginning of your planned improvements. Manufacturers sometimes overlook this step because they don’t want to interrupt productivity. We define workforce engagement as the level of discretionary commitment and effort employees exhibit at work. It gets beyond satisfaction and straight to the heart of motivation. If you’re thinking something along the lines of, “Well, building a new production line won’t impact person x for a while. I’ll prep person x at a later time so I don’t interrupt his/her productivity now,” you’re thinking is with the majority of manufacturers.   

Like many manufacturers in Michigan, you have two major priorities in 2013:

  1. Increase sales to grow your business.
  2. Become more efficient to reduce your costs.

This year, as you focus on these key issues, there are many ways to accomplish these objectives, including: conducting projects to generate more leads and diversify your market or implementing new initiatives to become more lean.

Although there are numerous avenues you can pursue to increase sales and reduce costs, all of the methods have one thing in common: the results of your improvement initiatives depend on your workforce. In an earlier blog post, we highlighted three important ways to strengthen your workforce. One of the things we listed was to ensure employee buy-in on projects. Employee buy-in isn’t just about improving employment engagement – it’s about ensuring sustainability and replication of improvement projects.

While this thought process is understandable, it’s imperative to secure employee buy-in on projects early on. Without buy-in, employees don’t fully understand why it’s so important to improve… they don’t see the value in changing. This has a “trickle down” effect - later on when it’s their turn to become a part of the change process, they don’t have the motivation to carry out your initiatives. They may participate in making improvements because of their assignments, but they may not necessarily fully embrace the projects… decreasing your chances of sustaining results.

Buy-in goes both ways, down the line to production and up the line to top management. To create a culture of improvement and innovation, it’s vital to get your management team involved and all headed in the same direction. As Harvard professor and bestselling leadership author, John Kotter, stated, “The process of change for any organization begins with getting senior leadership aligned around a big opportunity. If top leadership sees their organization’s large-scale opportunity and not just the problems clearly, they will be able to establish goals more clearly and more effectively communicate them throughout the organization.”

If you are planning on making changes to help your company grow this year, clearly conveying the issue at hand, the need for change and the path forward to your workforce is important. It creates awareness and implies that they are trusted members of the organization. The following elements provide a foundation for improving employee buy-in to and casting a vision for your change efforts:

  • Communication – You cannot communicate too much or too often.
  • Motivation – Explain why this will help them and the company.
  •  Integrity – Be open and honest. Solicit feedback and ask questions, in small groups or individually.
  •  Capability – Ensure the workforce has the skills necessary to support change. Train them if needed.

This year is a pivotal time for Michigan’s manufacturers. American manufacturing is becoming increasingly stronger. Now is the time to implement initiatives to improve efficiencies and grow sales. Your workforce will play a key part in helping you grow and succeed. If you would like more information on how to make 2013 an incredible year for your company, click here to see a list of our services.

 Image by CBIA