Often there is a divide between those in the office and those who work on the floor. This divide can seem as if it is a wall that stands between the two parties. Building a strong culture brings unity between the two, but a great culture cannot exist as two separate entities divided by a shop floor wall. Though we have yet to achieve our final goal of breaking down that “wall,” we hope that through continuous improvement we can become that great culture we strive for.

If you think of this process as removing “one brick at a time,” the process began with the dress code. There was an apparent disparity in the way people looked on the shop floor compared to in the offices. Those on the floor had to wear jeans or durable workpants while those in the office were required to wear slacks or other dress clothes. Doing away with this allowed for a more uniform code that made all employees feel like equals.

A focal point of our strategy towards building a solid culture is allowing for employees to utilize their genius. One way this happens is through creating leadership opportunities. At Cambridge, companywide meetings take place every day and provide full transparency into details about company operations - whether it be finances, safety, or delivery timing. These meetings are led by different individuals every day. Employees sign up and are given a chance to lead in front of the entire company. Not having the same higher-ups conducting the meetings every day clarifies that anyone can be a leader, regardless of their official position. 

When working on the shop floor, most of the day is planned for you as there are quotas on production, unlike in the office, where the time utilization is more at the discretion of the individual employee. To ensure that all employees feel as if their ideas are appreciated, time is set away each day for “lean” ideas. This is when the employees on the floor have no task that is required of them, and they are allowed to think of anything that can improve the company freely, whether it be changes to the processes, their workstation, or something that could improve safety. Empowering individuals is a centric idea of this culture and lets it be known that genius exists within every individual. 

One glaring disparity that can cause frustrations between the office and floor is indoor air quality and comfort. It is apparent to people on the floor that they are seen as less valuable when working in poor air quality conditions. The office should not be a comfortable temperature while the floor is cold during the winter or hot during the summer. The investment of thermal comfort does more than meet a code standard, it signals to your employees that their company cares for them. 

The pandemic brought with it many challenges. One of which being the fact that office workers gained the ability to work from home while those on the floor were still required to be on campus. We realize that the ability to work from home is not going away. However, through continuous improvement, we are striving to find a solution that will bring equality to both sides. 

Breaking down the wall between the office and floor is certainly not a task that can be completed overnight. Rather than being one large change, it comes with small changes or removing of “bricks”. For a healthy culture to exist, it must be unified. Finding ways for employees to dress and think the same are great ways to ensure that everyone feels appreciated and on the same playing field. The benefits of overcoming the challenges are quickly apparent as it improves moral, recruitment, and retention. Help create an awesome workplace by joining Cambridge for a morning meeting to see these ideas in action.

Extending a Company Culture across Multiple Facilities

When a company decides that their strategic goals and growth plans include the need for additional space – be that office, production or warehousing space – it begs the question: “How are we going to do this?”

To add to the complexity of multi-facility continuity, Covid introduced a unique situation where many companies offered the ability to work from home and plan to incorporate these workspaces in some fashion moving forward. The reality is that a company might operate at four business addresses but have remote workers dialing in from home offices across the country.

The good news is that a spirit of creative and intentional planning with the understanding that everything can be improved upon can make the process seem less daunting.

The operational “How?” starts to get sorted out through interdepartmental organization, communication and infrastructure investment. Planning for leasing, staffing, IT expansion and beyond becomes a beautiful challenge of logistics and operations. As these plans start to formulate, you can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel and envision of how the success of the expansion will come about.

The less tangible “How?” – the one that deals with extending the essence of the company beyond the original four walls is a little less concrete and arguably harder to plan. At Cambridge, we are proud of the culture of family, teamwork and lean  that we feel throughout our offices, our shop and in our morning meetings. We would be lying if we said we weren’t concerned about being able to extend that culture to our newest facility down the road in Wentzville, MO. While the second Cambridge facility isn’t all that far by mileage, ensuring that each employee experiences the same core values and unconditional love is where the challenge arises.

We know that we are still at the beginning of our multi-facility journey, and reserve any opportunity to improve as we learn, but here is an action plan that helped us feel comfortable that the Cambridge culture will reach all of our employees.

Take a stroll through your facility and take note. 
When you are walking someone through your workspace, what features are you always sure to point out? For us, a favorite stop is a picture wall full of our families and hobbies that help us remember each other’s whole selves. This simple installment will also live at our new facility and will serve to keep faces familiar that we don’t see day-to-day.

Create continuity. 
We wouldn’t be authentic if held one facility to a gold standard and one as an overflow facility, especially since our talent lives in both places. Many of the fundamentals from our headquarters can be easily shared – signage, inviting breakrooms, collaboration spaces, etc. Beyond the basics, we will rely heavily on our 2-Second Lean training and rest assured knowing that each and every employee will make their workspace work for them by eliminating waste and struggle. Our whole culture and operating system is based on the belief that the genius of each and every employee shines through the improvements that they make, so much so that it takes the stress out of making sure the lean (and clean!) workspaces is consistent among facilities.

Create some friendly competition. 
While it is important for everyone to know that they are working toward common goals and are part of unified team, it is also fun to bring in a little competition, especially when it gives employees a chance to show off their employee genius. 

Some of our favorite competitions were centered around who could find and eliminate the most safety risk and which department could produce the best lean improvement. Unsurprisingly, employees ran with the challenge and winners received gift cards or lunch. The spirit of competition and team comraderie can easily be launched in many different locations with leaderboards available to see where each location stands.

Create communication touchpoints. 
Now that many companies have embraced virtual meetings, the idea that communication should be built into daily rhythms is seemingly obvious but can still be difficult to implement. We embrace our daily Morning Meetings as a home for announcements, a review of our revenue, safety, quality and delivery metrics and a way to share our lean improvements with our fellow coworkers.  We have been intentional in ensuring to have equipment in place on Day 1 for the new facility to log in to our Morning Meetings.
 

Other companies rely on an intranet, cadenced emails or a dedicated social media channel or app to keep information flowing among employees. Whatever your choice of communication may be, just be sure that the training of the platform and importance of participation is part of the rhythm of the company and not just used for one-off communications. 

Team Build in each facility AND across locations. 
Taking advantage of virtual capabilities makes it easier than ever to get everyone “in the same place.” Virtual platforms are now commonplace for productive meetings, but can be of value in the team building arena as well. For our 2020 Christmas event, our Activities Team hired a comedic  party host that led us through an engaging hour of team building activities that were refreshingly fun and engaging. You can now also do virtual escape rooms and talent shows.
 

You could also just plan similar activities to occur at the same time at each facility so that no one feels left out of the fun.


We hope in the next year to be able to have all events that make up our culture – morning meetings, lean tours, employee celebrations – as live, in-person events. But if we’ve learned anything this past year, it’s that we need to learn to be flexible and creative to not get sidelined by obstacles.

As we hit milestones for the opening of our expansion facility for our M-Series ventilation line in Wentzville, Missouri - we understand the importance to pause and celebrate the hard work that's gotten us this far. This event is especially important for us as it is the first in a year that we've been able to celebrate in-person! 

This 1 minute video shows the highlights of our banner lowering at our Chesterfield Facility and the raising at the Wentzville Facility!

What happens when an employee is asked to leave behind the realities of their home life when they walk into their workplace? The outcome is a conflicted person who is forced to figure out where their loyalties lie. As leaders, if you can recognize, celebrate and try to help with different facets of their lives, you can tap into their "whole person" - somebody who is much, much more than somebody you just pay to complete a list of tasks. 

If people are allowed to speak and act freely about their non-work life, they are likely to have a better sense of belonging, stronger loyalties, and often bring innovative ways to problem-solve to the table.

What exactly can leaders do to encourage a "whole self" at work?

  1. Acknowledging that mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, husbands, and wives all have unique concerns and burdens that might be weighing on them. 
  2. A friendly listening ear can provide immeasurable support, but even if that is not possible, leaders can provide support through understanding and accommodation if PTO is needed.
  3. Making a genuine effort to learn more about your coworkers' families, including their accomplishments and current life obstacles 
  4. Celebrating accomplishments such as graduations, milestone birthdays, family additions and other changes 
  5. Creating perks and/or benefits that help people personally as well as professionally. One example at Cambridge is the subscription to SmartDollar, Dave Ramsey's online plan to financial freedom.

Watch the video below to hear the benefits first-hand from people who are more than just Cambridge employees, but also mothers, fathers, an Army National Guardsman, baseball enthusiasts and home cooks!

This video is part of our Enriching Lives series. For other ideas of what it means to enrich lives, click here. We'd love to hear your stories of how your company encourages whole selves. Tag us on social media with your story and the hashtag #enrichinglives!

 

This blog was guest-written by Darla Gibson (Executive Admin) with input from Meg Brown (VP of HR) and Conner LaLonde (Safety Coordinator) - all members of our COVID-19 Steering Committee.

This is Part 2 of a blog that we developed to help remind us that in this time of uncertainty, we can still live out our mission of enriching lives. Read Part 1 here.

Enriching Lives During a Pandemic - From the Perspective of the Cambridge COVID-19 Steering Committee.

When we realized that we were going to have to address the COVID-19 situation at Cambridge Air Solutions from a corporate standpoint, we started a Steering Committee, as I am sure many of you did. Our COO/CFO Kevin Thompson was part of this committee and he stated up front that the Committee needed to act within four core principles: Wellbeing, Generosity, Creativity and Transparency. These principles fall into line with our “We exist to glorify God by enriching every life we touch” mission statement. But how exactly do you “Enrich Lives” when things are changing faster than you can react?

Fortunately, we have a culture that allows us a lot of flexibility in being creative, trying something that may or may not work, being quick to act, quick to fail and quick to improve! So, the following are some of the things that our COVID-19 Committee put into place to enrich the lives of our employees, vendors, and customers.

Once we verified that we were an essential business and could continue our operations, we did something that I never thought I’d see at Cambridge as we have historically been a traditional organization, working in the office. We knew we had to find a way for people to work from home.  Obviously, our manufacturing operations cannot do that, but what if the office personnel did? That would allow us to have less people crossing paths AND, allow the office side to deal with the fallout of childcare and school closures.

Then, we said, how do we address these same items (childcare and school closures) for Manufacturing, as well as keeping them safe when they come to work? This was more difficult, and as St. Louis County said, “stay at home” we decided to take a week, pay our employees, and give us breathing room to make it happen.

In that week, we worked on alternative schedules based on each employee’s need, we worked on how to make the building safe for the return, as well as on-going after the return, we reworked how outsiders could visit our building – we had a very open policy for delivery and pick-up that had to change, and we found a communication channel that we could utilize to communicate with the employees on what we were doing.

That was a tough week. The Committee put in overtime galore to make it all happen. From policy changes, governmental as well as corporate, to reworking how the lunchroom flow was going to work, it was crazy!  It didn’t feel like we were enriching, it felt like we were turning the world upside down!  Our Morning Meeting had gone from all company, in person, to virtual from home, with only the office employees! No more high-fives, fist bumps and laughter, but tired, stressed out “Brady Bunch” screens of employees!

In a little less than a week, we put together a plan, implemented it and were ready to welcome back our Manufacturing team. We made it!  We tried to make them feel welcome and safe by keeping with our brand promise of “enriching lives”. But, how did we do that?

  1. Safety – is always our first criteria for everything we do.  So, we put a portable water closet for our truck drivers, with a vanity, thanking them for “keeping America Moving!”, we rented portable hand washing stations to put them closer to the employee work stations, we took out the high-touch things like water coolers and coffee supplies, we revamped cleaning protocols…everything we could think of to keep them safe and flatten that curve!  It didn’t always feel like enriching lives, but if safety comes first, it is an enriching moment! 
  2. Communication, Communication, Communication!  This was the most difficult to execute as we had to find a platform that would work for everyone.  WhatsApp was our solution, there were a lot of choices, but this allowed us to send out messages to the employees to let them know what the changes would be and what they could expect.  It also allows them to reply if there are questions.  We use video a lot and this platform allowed us to continue the use of video. We utilized our partnerships with other businesses through our corporate memberships, such as St. Louis AME Consortium and AME National, to find and adapt documents and ideas that they were using. Being able to share and adapt what was working (or not working) at other organizations kept our speed up on these changes and communications. We also put together a survey to send out to the Operations team. This went out the end of the first week and gave us some feedback on how we were doing and the employees’ willingness to return. We are sending this out every two weeks so we can get continued feedback from them. 
  3. Scheduling – We spoke to each employee about it being voluntary to work or not work. Our goal was to help them figure out the options for pay (or no pay) given their individual situations. 
  4. Remote Meetings – I mentioned our Morning Meeting earlier, but we moved ALL meetings to remote, using Zoom and have found our employees are thankful for the flexibility this allows them as their home lives are as different as their work lives!  Our Operations team is also able to be part of the Morning Meetings in this format. We have made it purposeful to keep normal updates going through this format too. For example, our CFO does a monthly update on finances and we have continued to do this.  We are also working on our Quarterly update meeting in April and finding new solutions to making that happen. It may be a different format, but it is an important communication we do not want to skip! 

The COVID-19 Steering Committee meets as often as needed to discuss, review and update as the world and guidelines keep changing.  Then, we COMMUNICATE! Our VP of HR, Meg Brown has made sure we posted something once a day minimum at the start to keep everyone aware of what was happening.  She continues to update as things change.

Although Safety is always #1, if I had to pick an item of most impact, it is the Communication piece.  The what we are doing and why, is what lets the employee know you are thinking of them first, along with their families, our vendors, and our customers.

So many things have changed in our world but looking through the lens of “Wellbeing, Generosity, Creativity and Transparency”, allows you to always think of others before anything else.

This blog was guest written by Darla Gibson, Executive Admin at Cambridge Engineering.

We all know what employee engagement means, getting our employees to be present at work. Getting them to make things better, paying attention to quality and making sure our customers are taken care of. But how do we get it?

Over the 20+ years that I have been at Cambridge, I have seen so many iterations of getting the employees heard. From the suggestion box, to a database of issues that they encounter and want solutions for (we called it Employee Action Request or EAR), to rearranging where the departments are physically located to make sure the resources are near to where the problems occur. But it never seemed to work. But, why? 

It wasn’t that we didn’t hear them. It wasn’t that we didn’t believe them. It was a matter of having enough time and figuring out what the priorities were. Once the employee handed the problem to leadership, we had to put it in a bigger engine. Now, we had to prioritize it with the other projects from other areas. It became a bunch of “red tape.” So, what changed that for Cambridge?

I believe that the change came when we told the employees to fix it. That may sound harsh but basically, we said, if it bugs you, fix it. Don’t bring it to us, use the resources within your circle of influence and figure out how you can make it better. Most of the little issues, suddenly get fixed. If the employee was not changing the way our product looks or feels to the customer, we allowed them to find solutions. 

These solutions took a lot of their headaches away. Many times, they had the relationships within their departments and amongst other departments to fix the problems that plagued them day in and day out. They became more engaged because they felt they had a voice in finding the solutions to their own issues. No longer did they have to wait for the item to become top priority, no longer did they wait for a magical solution, they just took care of the issue.

The truly inspiring part of this is that we asked them to record it. We asked for a video that gave the problem and showed us their solution. This gave them a voice.  Now, they had the permission to fix what bugged them, and to show the entire organization their creative process. 

Did this make everything better? Of course not. There were larger problems that needed to be addressed within the bigger engine. However, what I believe this did was give employees a place to be creative and ask them for their ideas to fix problems. 

We have many people come through Cambridge to visit to see what we do. They have heard so many things about our Morning Meeting and our employee engagement.  When they are here, they see and feel this engagement.  This sense that the employee’s voice matters and therefore, the employees are willing to step up and tell us when they have an idea, rather than stay in the background. Everyone’s question is “how did you make it happen?”

It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t overnight. We have been on this journey for several years and the iterations keep happening. We have added so many places where the employee can come with ideas and be creative. What all the systems do is recognize that the employee voice needs to be heard, and the employee needs to have a space to be creative.

So, how can you make this happen in your organization?

  1. Create a pathway that works in your organization.  One that is simple and easy for the employee to access. 
  2. Allow the employee to tell their story.  Video is as easy way to share.  Find a venue – email, company meeting, some way for the stories to get published.  Allowing the employee to show off their creativity. 
  3. Celebrate.  Make sure the employee knows that you appreciate their efforts!

Find that space in your organization and let your employees become engaged and thrive!

A quick rhythm that sets the mood for the day. 

Corporate leaders know that creating daily rhythms can make the difference between a “great idea” and a lasting impact on you and your company. These rhythms can range from a team touchpoint meeting on goals to spending 20 minutes reading up on industry trends and news.   
 

A specific rhythm that makes so much sense logically, but can be hard to exercise is giving daily gratitude. It’s not lost on us that sharing gratitude and showing vulnerability in that manner can seem out of place at work, and uncomfortable for some.
 

We feel that this daily rhythm is incredibly important, so much so that we started doing it “first thing” in our morning meeting, before we go over daily sales and metrics. Our practice includes passing the microphone for people to volunteer to thank someone for their help or share a personal moment of gratitude.
 

One may ask “Couldn’t the 5 minutes a day (30+ minutes a week!) be better used?” We are a manufacturing facility that measures the Takt Time it takes to produce one our our HVAC units. Yes, it could be used elsewhere, but in our opinion - not in a better manner.


According to a Gallup poll, only one in three workers in the U.S. strongly agree that they received recognition or praise for doing good work in the past seven days. Even more, another Gallup Poll shows that 65% of employees haven’t received any form of recognition for good work in the last year! We can all agree, that going an entire year without some feeling of appreciation in your daily work has major impacts.

 

The benefits of daily gratitude that we see:
 

Positivity begets Positivity.

Starting the day with insights to how one person helped another just makes you feel good. It’s not a rat race, we’re all in this together and are better because of one another. And that feeling of positivity is a great way to start the day off on the right foot.
 

You learn a LOT about who your coworkers are outside of work.

People are “whole beings” – they don’t leave their personal matters at the door when they clock into work. During our ‘Grateful Appreciations’ – we may learn that they are celebrating a child’s birthday, or saved up enough to put a down payment on a house – all things to celebrate and understand them as a mother, father, sister, brother, daughter or son.
 

People feel appreciated for their work, and that work becomes a passion.

Though bring kind and bettering a life is reason enough, a feeling of appreciation has an enormous impact on retention, referrals, and employee engagement. We also believe that the pride in one's work equates to producing higher quality products on the plant floor and going the extra mile to help a customer out in a service call - actions that you can't exactly interview for but is reason for celebration and recognition when you see it in your employees.


It's simple, right? Maybe not, but I hope that by now you at at least see the importance. Start with a personal goal of seeking out three people to express your thanks. I imagine, you'll find that you exceed this goal on the first day once you're consciously doing it. See how it can really take impact on your organization once you introduce it as a company goal - to give gratitude on a daily basis. 

"My passion is to restore Glory and Dignity back to US Manufacturing."

This ambitious statement was first articulated by our CEO, John Kramer, during a lean exposure trip to McElroy Manufacturing and Tulsa Tube Bending in 2017. Since then, it's become our mantra at Cambridge, demonstrating what we we all know is true: that the people working within the manufacturing industry are elevating perceptions and creating a huge impact on the overall national GDP. And we need to celebrate them.

Restoring glory and dignity may feel to some like it's too aspirational, too much to take on, but it is in fact very achievable. It's the little things that add up: sharing grateful appreciation to co-worker on the line, providing the opportunity for financial wellness by offering Dave Ramsey's program to employees, cooking birthday breakfasts and so much more. 

Follow #GloryandDignity on Facebook. LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter to see the movement in action. 

You can probably already think of a million examples of how you've seen glory and dignity being restored at your work or how you've become more of a "whole being" because of an opportunity given to you. Tell us your story. Help us create this movement. Tag these instances on social with the hashtag #gloryanddignity, so we can celebrate with you and others can be inspired.