The Power of Company Culture in Manufacturing

August 19, 2019

Manufacturing in the United States has gone through intense changes. From geopolitical threats to innovations on the plant floor, the entire manufacturing sector has weathered many a storm. So, as the focus shifts from quality to quality & speed, what else can manufacturers do to improve their bottom lines? Well, a big answer is company culture. Creating a strong company culture in your manufacturing company can attract top talent, improve your chances of being shortlisted, and increase quality.

What is company culture?

Let’s look to Silicon Valley, the epicenter of all things company culture (they finally moved on from their expensive ping pong tables and yoga lunches).

Ultimately, they’ve come to understand that culture is a mirror:

Culture reflects back the combined personalities of the people at the company. Leaders, because they have the most impact, have the biggest reflection.

How Company Culture Works

Think of any procedure, like logging injury events, at your company. A company’s culture could then look something like this:

Company Culture A

Everyone knows the procedure > Leader doesn’t follow procedure > No one else follows the procedure > Other procedures become less important to follow.

Company Culture B

Everyone knows the procedure > Leader follows procedure consistently > Most employees follow the procedure > Other procedures become AS important to follow.

Fast forward a few months when you get a batch of new hires. The new hire may never meet the leader yet they’ll still know certain procedures are more important than others. New hires learn by watching their peers – learning what’s acceptable and what isn’t.

What employees learn from company culture:

  • Which policies and procedures are important to follow
  • How to get recognized
  • How to get promoted
  • How to avoid failure or (public) shame
  • How transparent and honest to be
  • When it’s appropriate to take a break

How Company Culture Affects the Bottom Line

So why does Silicon Valley, or anybody really, spend the time and energy they do thinking and talking about company culture? Well, because company culture has a measurable impact on:

Employee turnover

Employee turnover isn’t just about the expense that comes with hiring and firing, it’s about stopping the ‘snowball effect’ of employee turnover affecting morale. Beyond the scheduling conflicts and understaffed shifts, employee turnover affects relationships. The more transient the employee base, the thinner the relationships employees build with each other. Folks don’t stick around long without close relationships.

Employee dedication and perseverance

With a stable employee population, employers can focus on the growth of their employees. This means investment, cross-training, compensation, and thoughtful ways of recognizing their top performers. When employees see their peers rewarded for supporting core values, or one another, or even a client, they understand directly what the company values. Then, when their motivation is clear, their effort catches up to their desire to be invested in.

Talent pool size and candidate quality

Just like employees look to their peers, candidates in the job marketplace are looking to their peers and your communications, too. They want to know, among many things, which companies pay well, do rewarding work, and are stable. Companies with better reputations, or company culture, get more applicants.

4 Ways Manufacturers Can Improve Company Culture

1. Praise Publicly

Public praise for individuals, on some kind of standard weekly or monthly basis, goes a long way. Be clear why someone is getting praised and share an example of the tangible impact they made. Remember, the purpose of public praise is two-fold: recognize the employee while reinforcing the activities and attitudes you want to see more of.

2. Have Clear Core Values (keep them short)

Use them to hire and fire. Display them proudly. Talk about them. The more employees hear and understand what the core values are, and see leaders demonstrating those values, the more company culture will influence every employee to maintain those values.

3. Invest in your workforce

Reward employees with opportunities for cross-training or other forms of continuing education. How can your organization teach an employee in an informal way? Mini-internal apprenticeships, for instance, can go a long way to grow close relationships and make the workforce more flexible.

4. Promote your culture

As manufacturers build their company culture they also need to promote it. Letting potential candidates know about the recognition, the opportunity, or the investment your company is making in its people will make a huge difference in attracting the right people. Make sure your website’s About Us page, Careers page, homepage, and social media accounts all show the behind-the-scenes efforts to develop your company’s culture. If you don’t know where to start when it comes to digital promotion, check out our Ultimate Guide for Manufacturers.

How does your manufacturing company think about company culture? We’d love to hear from you.


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The Impact of Staff Turnover on Workplace Demands and Coworker Relationships, Danica K. Knight, Ph.D., Jennifer E. Becan, Ph.D., and Patrick M. Flynn, Ph.D.