ELKHART — For the last 40 years TAG Midwest has been a stable employer in Elkhart, Ind., building trucks caps–most notably the Leer brand. But with the current upswing in the RV industry putting Elkhart County, Ind., at 3.3 percent to dip to the lowest among Indiana’s 92 counties, even legacy companies like TAG must strive to create a culture friendly to employees in order to remain competitive in this marketplace, a release from the company stated.
A combination of progressive, lean manufacturing techniques and creative incentives to create a culture where employees understand that their company really does care about their welfare is critical. “Every week on Thursday we have a vision meeting with our leadership team,” said Eric Williams, director of operations for TAG Midwest. “We are consistently looking at how we can improve continuously.”
The visioning team is comprised of all facets of team members representing the full spectrum of the facility-from the manufacturing floor to the front office. Williams stated that one of the current projects the TAG Midwest visioning team is working on is reading The Gold Mine-the seminal novel of the Lean Manufacturing movement depicting the turnaround, to empower team members to maximize value and minimize waste-that has changed American manufacturing forever.
Williams spoke to the value of his leadership team’s collaborations and how it translates to the entire business. “This is just one of the tools we are using to coach our leadership team on the future of our business and how it will look. How can we continue to incorporate our lean manufacturing practices into our plant for the benefit of all and the overall improvement to their lives.”
Another progressive practice that TAG Midwest has instituted is weekly training with team leaders off the manufacturing floor.
“This is our front line approach to leadership training,” said Williams. “We pull our team leaders up to the training offices and provide an eight-week leadership program. This session we are currently working with helps them with change management, removing barriers, conflict resolution, and other topics to help them better manage continuous improvement and personal growth.”
With over 40 years on the Elkhart County employment scene, TAG has many long-term employee success stories. “We have team members at this facility that have been with us for 35 years,” said TAG Human Resources Assistant Manager Sarah Stutsman. “We just had a woman retire in January that had been here 38 years.”
But today, the challenge is attracting, training and then retaining a new generation of loyal employees to help TAG grow.
“The turnover has been pretty high lately,” said Williams. “With over 200 plus team members, we’ve had about 10 positions on the floor that have experienced high turnover. It slows down and then it goes back up.”
Unlike many Elkhart, Ind., firms that dictate manufacturing schedules based on the seasonal and economic swings of RV demand, TAG offers its employees a more stable work schedule based on national automotive sales and aftermarket demand of truck caps, the release noted.
“We don’t have layoffs,” said Williams, “We had an employee survey recently and scored very high on concerns about job security and stability with our team members. That’s one of the things they are least concerned about working here-job security and stability.”
Growth is also a factor of the stability of the workforce at TAG. He went on to explain that the major truck cap producer for TAG, Leer, recently purchased Snugtop, another major competitor in the cap market.
“So now we will be building Leer, Century, Raider and Snugtop brands out of this plant. The growth we’ve been experiencing is phenomenal. We are growing in leaps and bounds. And this is good for our team members,” said Stutsman
She went on to explain that TAG is working hard to provide team members with a true “work/life balance.”
Williams explained that major decisions for work schedules and other team changes are based off internal surveys with the entire workforce.
“Recently, we had a 98 percent response from the team survey,” said Williams. “We are always striving for more and improved employee engagement.”
More than just incentives
Williams and Stutsman went on to elaborate about team practices that include monthly state-of-the-business meetings, monthly birthday lunches celebrating team members born that month, a summer baseball park outing with all the families, a fall bowling outing, a family movie night renting out the entire theater, and a company-wide Christmas luncheon.
To attract solid employees to TAG in the competitive Elkhart, Ind., marketplace, the benefits and incentives are numerous, reading more like an ad from a high-tech startup.
- No experience necessary-willing to train dependable motivated individuals
- Full and part-time opportunities are available
- All positions starting at a minimum of $12 per hour
- $1.00 per hour increase within the first 90-days of employment
- $500 sign-on bonus.
- Refer a friend, get another $500
- .60 cents on the dollar 401 (K) match up to 5 percent of earnings
- Ten paid holidays per year
- Paid vacations, sick time, medical, dental, RX, vision, FSA and company paid life insurance also available
“Anything we can do to drive team member engagement to let them know we care about them and appreciate the work they do is critical,” said Stutsman. “We are really trying to work with our team to instill a family, homespun, balanced culture here.”
SOURCE: TAG Midwest press release