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How a Boat Part Manufacturer Turned Employee Feedback into $3.8M in Increased Production Capacity

Nicole Klemp
Nicole Klemp

A lot can change over 40 years of business. But for T-H Marine, company culture had remained virtually the same despite new faces, generations, and management styles. General Manager Jeffery Huntley Jr. had witnessed a number of changes across the company during his tenure — most notably the departure of a few long-term employees, which had sparked tension across the organization. Departments had become siloed, and employees were struggling with misunderstanding, animosity, and a lack of teamwork.

Moving from guesswork to science-based measurement

Without a way to accurately measure employee engagement, company leaders were flying blind. “Having real, measurable, quantifiable numbers is so much more effective for making decisions in your business than just guessing what you think is best for the organization,” said Huntley. “That was one of the areas where we were desperately lacking.”

Huntley began seeking out ways to improve the organization’s processes and culture. He started by gathering informal, in-person feedback from employees, but found it hard to discern patterns in one-off verbal feedback. He even implemented a few paper-based surveys on employee happiness, using questions pulled from the internet. But many employees were hesitant to fill out the informal surveys for fear of retribution for negative feedback, leaving management without any real data or insight. “The informal surveys provided some baseline, but they didn’t give a good, scientific picture of what was really going on in the business,” said Huntley. “There were no measurables or KPIs.”

Even with an increased focus on employee happiness, it was evident to Huntley that people were still disengaged in their roles. He needed a way to dig deep, understand how employees were feeling, and address the core issues. So after hearing we could help, he knew 15five could be the solution they needed to properly measure and assess employee engagement at the company.

Turning a hunch into actionable data

When T-H Marine sent out their first 15five survey, they heavily promoted it internally, touting the opportunity for employees to make their voices heard. They received an excellent 87% response rate, and employees expressed how pleased they were with the survey’s confidentiality.

The survey results revealed some problems with trust between coworkers, absence of shared attitudes about the work they were doing, and a feeling by some employees that they lacked the necessary resources to fully accomplish their tasks — all things Huntley had a strong hunch about from regularly interfacing with employees, but was never able to present as tangible evidence to company leadership. “I knew there were trust problems. I knew there were shared value problems. But the survey actually gave it to me on paper for once, instead of it just being a hunch.”

The ROI of employee engagement

Huntley has since dug deeper into the company’s survey results by inviting more employee feedback and engagement in specific areas. By bringing customer service employees together for monthly lunches, survey results have shown an improvement in the team’s level of shared values. “It’s my job as General Manager to deal with any and all personnel issues. But it can take away from my time and stress me out about things that have nothing to do with our business,” said Huntley. “In the months since our survey and implemented changes, I haven’t heard a peep regarding infighting. Not a peep.”

[bctt tweet=”By measuring #EmployeeEngagement and collecting feedback, T-H Marine has increased productivity, saving about $20k in labor costs and adding $3.8M in production capacity.” username=”15five”]

The company additionally sought to resolve issues noted in the survey results that pointed to problems with utilization in the production department. Huntley gathered the floor employees to share specific feedback on how they felt their skills were being utilized in their respective roles. The meeting format allowed employees at all levels to come up with solutions to their own problems and helped them all become active participants in their own engagement.

Production employees shared that they were struggling to lift heavy boating materials manually, without the aid of machines. After receiving this feedback, the company purchased carts with hydraulic lifts, increasing station capacity by 67%, and speeding up the time to complete certain tasks by 30%. This increased productivity has allowed T-H Marine to save about $20,000 in labor costs and add a whopping $3.8 million in production capacity (with the same fixed overhead costs). They’ve also reduced the risk of injury, mitigated fatigue, and enhanced morale.

“People are so worried to ask for funding for things like an employee engagement survey. But the results speak for themselves,” said Huntley. “When you get that kind of growth, it’s pocket change. It was worth every single dime, just for the survey results alone.”

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