By Tom Ragen, Color Communications, LLC

In the fall of 2018, Color Communications took our first engagement survey based on the Gallup methodology. The results were daunting (chart below). We had as many actively disengaged employees as engaged. Our responses to the “base camp” statements were 3.3 – which I describe collectively as a shrug of the shoulders. Stated differently, our front line associates could not answer yes to the question – do you have the right materials and equipment to do your job safely? I’ve been using the engagement methodology since 2001, and bluntly had not seen such an intimidating scenario.

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As our senior management team led by Bob Kester and Teresa Contreras dug into the data, we realized that we couldn’t improve these scores without some help. One of the areas we turned to was the Institute for Workforce Education (a division of St. Augustine College), and Lenora Dailey put together a great bilingual program to address our need for improvement in professional supervisory tools. Isaias Mercado and Sheryl Soifer were our trainers as they guided the management team through a total of 1,304 hours of training starting in late 2018 and culminating in 2019. CCI had a history of promoting good employees to supervisory roles without any subsequent professional training, and this was our attempt to close that training gap.

The executive team met in Q4 of 2018 and mapped out a plan to get to a 4:1 engagement ratio by the end of 2021. I’m aware of the value of stretch goals, but there was definitely part of me that felt we were setting ourselves up for failure. The plan put together not only included the training support identified above but an aggressive plan to upgrade safeties on equipment that previous ownership had removed (1,600 man hours to complete!), implementing a total preventative maintenance program for equipment critical to the work of our business and throwing away things that were no longer relevant (5S).

Another element of our plan was to engage the wisdom of the shop floor. I learned a long time ago that when a manager can’t figure something out about his process failures, there are people on the floor that know the answer. In addition, if these key associates are engaged in our processes they will more quickly react to the inevitable day-to-day issues that cause issues in deliveries and gross profit. So we started a “value add” team comprised of key supervisors and managers that impact daily improvement. They are incentivized to help us beat our budget on initial gross profit, and have come up with many of the ideas that have improved our performance. These folks have done an amazing job of not only addressing the day to day, but thinking about longer term improvement initiatives that can improve deliveries and performance. This along with a monthly STAR (Special Thanks and Recognition) award program have engaged all of our associates in process improvement and addressed the Gallup statement regarding receiving feedback on performance.

Below are the results of the most recent survey (we measure twice a year) – you can see we’ve made remarkable progress. Like any successful endeavor there are many contributors, including Bob Kester, Teresa Contreras, Joe Pils, our managers and supervisors, those folks that supported them in training on best practices for management, and our maintenance team (led my Miquel Lazcano) for upgrading equipment and leading our safety efforts. We’ve come a long way – our ratio is 3.75:1 so we didn’t achieve our goal, but if you would have told me in the fall of 2018 that we’d get this close I’d be thrilled. Most importantly, all of the effort and planning that our associates have completed has led to on-time shipping percentage for 2021 of 98% vs 70% three years ago!

Congratulations to all the managers and front line supervisors at CCI! You are making a difference in the lives of your associates, and improving deliveries to our customers – no small feat given the tumultuous times that we have all lived in over the last two years. On a personal level, you have displayed an indomitable spirit that inspires me and heightens my pride for serving as your leader.

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