Cutting Tool Engineering
February 2013 / Volume 65 / Issue 2

Doing the shop hop

By Keith Jennings

Like most shops, we’re always interested in good job candidates, but demand is high for experienced machinists and related positions. This leads me to ask why they are looking. The most common responses are they’re tired of working 6 to 7 days a week with no time off, upset about not getting a raise or having their insurance eliminated. Interesting reasons that make me think about minimizing the factors that prompt employees to leave, if that’s even possible.

My most recent example of someone leaving occurred early this year. A young machinist-in-training turned in his resignation, politely offering 2-weeks’ notice. It wasn’t a crisis, but a bit disappointing because we had given him a nice pay increase several months prior and assumed he was content.

I decided an exit interview was in order considering we’d spent more than 2 years mentoring him. He informed me of his reasons. First, he said this new opportunity had come about unexpectedly and pays about 50 percent more than he’s making with us. Next, he respectfully complained about several things he didn’t particularly like at our company, mostly involving the work schedule and a couple of leadmen.

I listened carefully and pondered the validity of his comments, even questioning our company culture and whether our management of these matters was effective. Even though we didn’t anticipate losing him, it wasn’t reasonable to match that competing salary offer and we wished him good luck. After all, if the grass is greener somewhere else, make the most of it.

As shop owners and managers, we can be our own worst critics. I try to learn from these situations and analyze my own techniques, which involves walking the tightrope of employment compliance and ensuring matters are handled appropriately. But, on the other hand, people regularly ask us for jobs and state how bad the work environment is at their companies.

Do better opportunities present themselves and justify an employee leaving one company for another? Of course! However, human nature being what it is, many employees take a company for granted and develop an impression that their jobs aren’t so great. It’s frustrating to hear an employee complain or express dissatisfaction when you strive to provide a high-quality work environment.

One thing is certain: People are prone to make goofy decisions. They hear from friends, neighbors and family members about someone working somewhere, how wonderful it is and how well they’re getting paid. This creates a naive impression in many workers that they’re missing out and their job is now a dead end. It’s frustrating to hear, but likely not an accurate reflection of your management style or company potential.

When managers put in the effort to maintain high-quality shops, they don’t like to hear complaints or negative comments. However, understand the source and maintain your confidence. We know our company is a respectable place to work and doubting ourselves isn’t necessary.

The grass isn’t always greener and many squander opportunities hopping around from shop to shop, often landing at one that doesn’t have much regard for employee morale. In addition to the young machinist, another employee recently left for greener pastures, but he called shortly thereafter wanting his old position back. Unfortunately for him, it wasn’t available. CTE

About the Author: Keith Jennings is president of Crow Corp., Tomball, Texas, a family-owned company focusing on machining, metal fabrication and metal stamping. Contact him at
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