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How Focus on Employee Engagement Led to Reduction in Turnover and 24% Increase in Profits at Millwood

Nicole Klemp
Nicole Klemp

Chances are, wood pallets aren’t something you think about very often. But for the 1,600 people who work for Millwood Inc., America’s second-largest pallet provider, they’re a livelihood. For Millwood, headquartered in Ohio with 30 facilities across the country, pallets — and the people who make them — are a pretty big deal.

To combat turnover, leaders needed insight into employees’ true perceptions

Leaders at Millwood previously relied on employee surveys they created themselves to collect feedback, but soon realized these in-house surveys weren’t giving them actionable information. So they began searching for a better way to measure culture and understand their employees’ true perceptions of the organization.

“We didn’t want to just do a survey to ask about pay or find out if it’s too hot in the plant,” said Rick Lombardo, Executive Director of Corporate Development for Millwood. “We decided to make our culture our number one priority, and needed a way to take a deeper look and get specific feedback on people’s perceptions at work. Emplify was the best option for that.”

Real data insights = real business results

Millwood began working with Emplify in late 2017 to measure and improve employee engagement. Since putting this measurable focus on engagement, they’ve seen the following year-over-year business results:

  • 24% decrease in turnover
  • 24% increase in profits
  • 20% reduction in OSHA recordable injuries

“Everything comes down to that reduction in turnover. It’s very costly to hire and train new employees and safety risks are higher in the first 30 days. By stabilizing our workforce, we have more experienced workers on the job, they’re more productive, and they’re safer,” said Lombardo.

Expert data analysis and manager coaching help create strategic alignment

Every Emplify customer gets the added value of an expert employee engagement strategist who guides their executive team through the measurement and analysis of their employee engagement data and helps them develop action plans.

As Lombardo puts it, Millwood’s leadership team is “all-in” on the value of employee feedback and engagement data:

“With Emplify, we have a measurement system in place to say ‘here’s where we were and now here’s where we are.’ Our team sees the value in this measurement and now knows how to take action. Our engagement strategist knows the data inside and out, and helps us to dig deeper,” he said.

In addition to their executive-level strategy sessions, Millwood has opted to get Emplify coaching for all their plant managers as well. By giving managers access to team-specific results along with insights from Emplify’s manager coaching team, those people-leaders are seeing the value in the data — and Millwood is reaping the rewards of a company that is aligned at all levels.

Since they began involving managers in the process, engagement survey participation has gone up from 57% to 70%. They’ve also worked with Emplify to implement a Spanish version of their survey, which has helped increase participation by primarily Spanish-speaking employees, who make up 66% of all Millwood’s hourly workers.

Looking ahead

As the Millwood team continues to build on their momentum, they’re hyper-focused on four key drivers of employee engagement: friendship, feedback, trust, and manager relationships. Of the 17 drivers of employee engagement that Emplify measures, they’ve identified these four as areas that currently matter most to the engagement of Millwood employees.

“I would recommend Emplify to anyone who wants to truly measure their culture. If culture isn’t a top priority for you, then this probably isn’t for you. But if you’re willing to accept what you hear from employees, Emplify helps you see your progress over time and helps you to dissect the data and see exactly where you need to take action,” said Lombardo.

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