How WCCO Belting embraced change to empower its employees and support its customers, Blog Post

How WCCO Belting embraced change to empower its employees and support its customers, Blog Post

In March 2020, at the pandemic’s onset, WCCO Belting quickly realized the need to adapt processes and procedures to continue to operate safely as an essential business. All-company in-person meetings with new employee introductions, business updates, and award celebrations halted. Training with hands-on, teambuilding activities was restricted. Although 92% of employees reported they had the support to stay healthy, WCCO’s culture is based on interaction which virtual avenues couldn’t replicate.

In 2021, program champions (all middle management) of four major culture-driving initiatives generated the Strategic Engagement Innovation Project to reignite employee motivation and participation impacted by the pandemic including:

  • Employee suggestion program
  • Workforce training
  • CREW Team
  • Safety

Focusing on these areas enabled the company to:

  • Engage employees in new ways through the Employee Suggestion Program and CREW Team,
  • Ensure employees had the training they needed to be successful, and
  • Ensure employees stayed safe at work and home through new safety training.

The Strategic Engagement Innovation Project impacted WCCO’s long-term business goals and enhanced its digital transformation. Located in rural North Dakota where the unemployment rate is nearly zero, WCCO needed to focus on growth with limited ability to grow headcount. The Employee Suggestion Program, Workforce Training, CREW Team, and Safety each involve strengthening WCCO’s workforce in a different way to achieve that goal.

The company’s training initiative started in late 2013 with one part-time employee. Today, the department of three maintains a catalog of over 100 internally developed courses specific to WCCO’s manufacturing. Sweat equity earned a new tool to support the department’s digital transformation far into the future. From 2020 to 2021, the program increased in-person training hours 56% and also recognized a 24% increase in overall training hours.

In a rapid growth year, where people resources are stretched, changes are often fueled by passion more than capital. The foundational improvements to the other three programs were achieved through “boots on the ground” efforts.

The Employee Suggestion Program provides employees at all levels a voice to drive change and improve their work environment. In its first five years, this program helped WCCO achieve 20% more output with 20% less workforce (due to a continued workforce shortage). The submission review team is continuing to explore ways to be more proactive, like whiteboard problem-solving exercises on the production floor, efforts increased suggestions from 2020 to 2021 by 88%. More importantly, WCCO recognized a 20% reduction in product quality incidents as a percentage of sales from 2020.

The one-year-old CREW Team improved on WCCO’s quantity and quality of internal company events for bettering oneself, supporting the community, and team building, and documented processes throughout for program sustainability. In fact, the team recognized a 200% increase in participation. CREW engages younger generations, who are the future of manufacturing, and who desire to find purpose and meaning at work. The leadership development program is now a core business strategy for next-gen development.

WCCO Belting’s culture of safety has truly transformed and blossomed with renewed strategic focus. In 2021, with increasing momentum and life-changing impacts, it transformed into a standalone department that continues to grow. The department trained 18 safety courses in 2021, eight of which include skills to bring home such as CPR for children and infants. Leadership also made the strategic decision to seek OSHA’s Voluntary Protection Program status for long-term benefit.

With innovation at its core, WCCO Belting seeks to be responsive to its customers, employees, and the world in which it operates. The past 18 months have been an exceptional time of change and growth for the growing family business. Its teams transformed four major programs to strategically improve employee engagement, and as a result, product quality and output. And program leaders, all middle management, did so with long-term sustainability and growth in mind. Their efforts have set WCCO Belting up for success today and into the future. 

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Our dedicated team and friendly culture consistently rank WCCO as one of the best places to work in the area, and we are always looking for great people