It’s one thing to find qualified workers; it’s another to keep them happy in their jobs.
Inman Mills has a 116-year history as a textiles manufacturer, now staffing three plants with 700 employees. The Inman, S.C.-headquartered company enjoys a low turnover rate and, in fact, has employees who have been with the company for 40 years or more. One can assume it has a formula for something beyond those for its fiber products.
“We have a very good culture here and are very attentive to our surveys,” president Norman Chapman explains. “When we surveyed our employees 18 months ago, one of the things that came back was that they didn’t think our bathrooms were what they should be. We agreed with them and hired a company to redo all 55 bathrooms. That showed our people that we are committed to them.”
As a further example of Inman Mills’ focus on its workforce, Chapman describes a Dec. 21, 2016 visit to one of the company’s plants. “I, our chairman, and our vice president of manufacturing had dinner with employees in one of our facilities 35 miles from [our headquarters] at 2 a.m. We spent an hour on either side of the dinner walking the plant and talking to employees. We have a very good rapport with our people, and I would say we try to have an open and friendly dialog with them.”
Other companies could benefit from another Inman Mills strategy: “We started a communications team where senior management will talk in person to employees in all shifts in all plants, so we are listening to them,” Chapman says. “We have identified problem areas, problem supervisors, and challenges that we may have. The survey company we use has told us they have never been in a company where the trust factor among employees was higher.”
Chapman points out that Inman Mills has major employers like BMW in its back yard. “We pay a fair wage but are not the top payer within 60 miles of our company,” he says. “We have to find cultural reasons for people to be here.”
Janice Kleinschmidt is a magazine editor and freelance writer based in San Diego, Calif.