Manufacturers weigh in on successful recruitment and retention strategies that go beyond salary

Craftmaster’s Roy Calcagne with long-timers John Miller, left, and Roger Adams, right.

HIGH POINT — The past few years have been challenging for employers in every sector and of every size. From pandemic shutdowns to supply chain issues, business as usual has been anything but that since March of 2020, and the business community continues to strategize on best practices for the new normal.

Furniture Today’s first-ever salary survey, in collaboration with sister publication Home Accents Today, highlights compensation at multiple levels of retail and manufacturing, but in a competitive labor environment, additional strategies have also become a crucial part of the recruitment and success story. No longer a “one size fits all” staffing approach, these incremental incentives underscore how America’s workforce is morphing and rewriting rules that have been in place for decades.

Roy Calcagne is president and CEO for Craftmaster Furniture, a full-line furniture manufacturer headquartered in Taylorsville, NC According to Calcagne, part of the company’s success in employee recruitment and retention is that “everyone is going in the same direction.”

“There are key strategies we follow to retain our team,” Calcagne said. “First, we lead by example of always treating people right. Second, we clearly communicate the goals and expectations so all are on board. And third, we make sure all key managers are invested in the success of the company.”

Like many in the manufacturing sector, Calcagne acknowledges that one challenge that surfaced post-pandemic is the option for remote work for some positions.

According to the survey, 65% of retail respondents said they had no change in work-related setup in the wake of COVID, while 43% of manufacturers who responded have been affected. The biggest change cited for either group was moving to a hybrid work-from-home/in-office format, which was adopted by 21% of those in retailing and by 31% in manufacturing.

“This is a tough one in a manufacturing environment,” he said. “While we see the advantages of working remotely, we prefer an onsite work environment. There is much gained when everyone is in an office working together. Meetings may pop up spontaneously, and it is much more efficient to walk into someone’s office to ask a question or get an opinion.

“There also is the social aspect of onsite that promotes team building and exposure/interaction with upper management. This is very important for career development with the younger associates.”

Caroline Hipple

Norwalk Furniture President Caroline Hipple agrees that manufacturing is a challenging match for remote work. However, like Calcagne, she sees immense value in onsite collaboration.

“It is tough in a manufacturing facility to have remote work, unless it is in the office staffs,” Hipple said. “But what we do to attract younger folks is to pair them with experienced craftsman so that they learn their skills faster and feel more confident. This really helps create proficiency and camaraderie.

“Our ESOP also appeals to younger people wanting to find a place to make a difference in and a place where there is a supportive culture.”

The survey revealed that longevity is common in the home furnishings business, with 51% of those in retail and 42% from manufacturing being on the job with their current employer for 15 years or more.

Norwalk’s employee stock ownership plan is described by Hipple as a “sophisticated retirement plan.” The current management bought the company from the 12 investing families who helped relaunch the 120-year-old Norwalk last year, giving every employee a piece of ownership.

“Our company is 100% owned by the employees,” Hipple said, explaining one of Norwalk’s recruitment and retention strategies. “In addition, studies show that people stay in their jobs because they believe in the goals of the company and can see how their performance ties into achieving their goals.

“So, communication is the key to helping everyone understand the company’s goals and values ​​and what each team member’s part to play is in achieving those goals.”

Hipple added that Norwalk implements “tangible things as well that are big and little.” Employees work a four-day work week, and the management team works to enhance benefits “bit by bit” each year.

The ongoing attention to achieving best practices complements the “opportunity, excitement, growth, trust and mutual respect” ideals that Hipple used to describe Norwalk’s culture.

“People also stay at companies where they have friends at work,” she said. “Fostering an environment that supports friendship is another intangible cultural element that counts.

“And lastly, people stay at companies when they believe that their manager knows them and has their best interest at heart. When folks see that their situation improved year after year, it counts.”

See also: Manufacturers have edge on pay, retailers on job satisfaction in first-ever salary survey

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