November, 2014

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Acist Medical Syst
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Advanced Web
AJ Gallagher Benefit
All Flex Flexible Circuit
American Converters 
Analog Technologies 
Andersen Corp
Bilfinger Water Tech
Ceramic Industrial
Cretex Companies 
D S Manufacturing 
Dane Technologies
Datacard Group
Fiserv Solutions
Graebel Relocation
Great River Energy
Greg Backlund
Healtheast Care Sys
HID Global
Hockenberg Search
Innovative Food
Interplastic Corp
Ironwood Electronics
JEM Technical
Lexington Mfg
Mayo Clinic
MGS Machine Corp
Midwest Rubber
Milestone AV Tech
Mitchell Unlimited
Nevers Industries 
NEXEN Group Inc
Nordic Ware
North American Plastic
Northern Tier Energy
Olsen Thielen Co
Orange Tree
Packnet Ltd
Platinum Group
Riteway Mfg
Skyline Displays 
Sparboe Farms
Spectrum Plastics
Stylmark Inc.
Talon Innovations
Tennant Co
The Bergquist Co
Outdoor Greatroom  
Twin City Plating
Upsher-Smith Labs 
Vatne & Associates
Viking Drill & Tool 
Viking Engineering 

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Article Index

HR Insights: Phil Boeke - ActivStyle
Article by: Phil Boeke

Phil Boeke is the Director of Human Resources at ActivStyle in Minneapolis. He has been with the company for two years.

Expensive Silence
Article by: Tom Esch

One day, in 1978, a pilot named Melburn McBroom was flying a plane that was supposed to land safely at an airport in Portland, Oregon.

100% Autonomy in Exchange for 100% Accountability. It’s the New Employee Agreement.
Article by: Cali Ressler

According to the Gallup Organization, Louisiana is the U.S. state with the most engaged employees. Sadly, Minnesota ranks not only at the low end, but as the state with the lowest amount of engaged employees. 

The Job Market is Changing. Are You Ready?
Article by: Debra Englund

The job market is changing. Are you ready? Participating in and purchasing a wage and benefit survey will help.

MN Economic Outlook
Article by: Dr. Ernest Goss

October survey results mark the 23rd straight month Minnesota’s Business Conditions Index has remained above growth neutral. The index slipped to a very healthy 63.7 from September’s 66.3.

HR Insights: Phil Boeke - ActivStyle

Phil Boeke is the Director of Human Resources at ActivStyle in Minneapolis. He has been with the company for two years.

ActivStyle is a Durable Medical Equipment (DME) company focused on providing a variety of medical supplies to Medicaid and Medicare Recipients. They have 19 locations throughout the country servicing over 60,000 customers each month in 46 States.

Where did you receive your HR training/experience? 
I have a B.A. in Human Resource Management from Metropolitan State University and have held a variety of HR Generalist/Leadership positions in Manufacturing and other Operations types of work environments.

How and when were you introduced to HR and what fuels your passion for the profession?
My first HR related position was working as an internal Employment Coordinator with a local Temporary Service. I was still in college at the time and that experience sparked my interest pursuing HR as a career. The relationships I have developed and variety of challenges that present themselves every day continue to fuel my passion for HR!
What are your company’s current HR-oriented activities?
As we are a growing company, there are a number of HR initiatives underway. Our top objectives as we wrap up the year are in the areas of Talent Acquisition, Onboarding, Development of Career Paths and a refresh of our Bonus Programs.

What was one major lesson learned in 2014 that you feel others could benefit from reading?
The lesson that comes to mind is related to the tremendous growth that we have experienced in the last couple of years. Although it is always exciting to be focused on growing the business, it is equally important to focus on running the business and making sure that your operations are able to scale-up to be able to handle the additional volume. Our heavy focus on growing the business has been temporarily replaced with initiatives to ensure we have the right people, processes and systems in place. We have also spent considerable time taking a longer look at the various acquisitions that we have made and adjusting our structure and footprint to take advantage of the talent in each location. This is all work that could have been done in conjunction with our growth if we would have taken the time to do so in the past.  Regardless, we are very happy that we took the time to focus on running the business in 2014 as we are now positioned to grow the business again in 2015.

What are the next steps planned for improving your company HR processes?
While we will no doubt continue to spend considerable time on Talent Acquisition in 2015, we will also focus on the implementation of a new HRIS, an update of our Employee Handbook and an added emphasis on Organizational Development.

How would you describe peer-to-peer education to a colleague in manufacturing?
I try to take advantage of any opportunity I can to receive peer-to-peer education as I have learned so much from others who have been kind enough to share their best practices with me.

Phil Boeke is the Director of Human Resources at ActivStyle in Minneapolis. He can be reached at

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Expensive Silence

One day, in 1978, a pilot named Melburn McBroom was flying a plane that was supposed to land safely at an airport in Portland, Oregon.

Captain McBroom had quite a temper and people feared him. He was known to be a domineering and explosive boss. He was someone you just would not mess with and people worked hard not to make him angry.  


They had to go into a holding pattern because of an issue with the landing gear. Captain McBroom was super intense about solving the landing gear issue. The issue was not being resolved and they continued in the same holding pattern. The co-pilots were watching the gauges that indicated the fuel was getting lower and lower.  They were afraid to interrupt McBroom, because they had seen what he could do to people who interrupted him. So they did nothing. They were silent. The plane ran out of gas and crashed, killing ten people. 

That tragic example, as you might have guessed, is used frequently in safety training sessions for those in the airline industry. 

How often, at your place of work, has someone not said or done something important because of fear? Fear that they might lose their job. Fear that they might lose their status.  Fear of an emotional outburst on the part of someone else. 

Have you or your co-workers ever left a meeting and said something like “Can you believe she said that?”  “That idea will never fly.” or “Boy he really threw so and so under the bus.”? When these things are said we know something more productive could happen, but is so hard to know what to do. And it takes so much courage. No one wants to stir the pot. Conflict is scary for most of us.

Are you willing to break the silence happening currently at your workplace? You can break the paralyzing silence by gently speaking up. You can make things better and generate safety by how you ask questions. Remember that your tone of voice and body posture communicate more than your words. Do not wait until it is a huge, plane-crash-level issue.  Speak up earlier than usual. Speak up when you catch yourself complaining about someone else. Actually, take some time to reflect first before you speak: What about this person bothers me? What part of the situation is my responsibility? What do I want to happen?  

Then before you open your mouth, be aware of the privileges you enjoy and your rank in the organization relative to them. If they are above you be focused on telling your story with courage and vulnerability. If they are below you plan to listen first to their point of view. If they are a peer, share your thoughts and feelings about speaking up.

Sound easy? It can be if you get the right support. I would be honored to be part of your learning to speak up and out in a way that would help a guy like Melburn McBroom safely “land the plane.”

Tom Esch helps companies achieve better safety via interpersonal communication and social awareness. You can learn more at or

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100% Autonomy in Exchange for 100% Accountability. It’s the New Employee Agreement.

According to the Gallup Organization, Louisiana is the U.S. state with the most engaged employees. Sadly, Minnesota ranks not only at the low end, but as the state with the lowest amount of engaged employees. 

This is definitely not good news as engagement levels have been linked to productivity levels, which obviously impact an organization’s bottom line. 

To bring this to life, your engaged employees, or your Innovators, may be heard saying things like this:

  • “Another company offered me a job and it pays more money, but I’m committed to this company’s mission and customers so I’m staying here.”
    • “I have some ideas for improving our customer service level.”

Your employees who aren’t engaged, or your Sleepwalkers, are not motivated, but aren’t doing anything outright harmful to the company. They can be heard saying:

  •  “Is it lunch time yet?”
  • “Time for my break?”
  • “Only two more hours until my shift is over – can’t wait.”

Your actively disengaged employees, or your Spoilers, are the people who are actively playing a role in hurting your company and will divert attention from themselves to co-workers:

  •  “Why aren’t you doing anything about Laura leaving the floor early every day?”
  •  “Jim is actually taking a 20-minute break instead of 15 minutes – not sure how that happens.”

Left alone, overall level of disengagement will continue to plummet. So what can be done to start turning this around? One solution is to provide a greater level of control to employees in how the work gets done. After all, it’s quite disheartening for employees, and even frustrating, to be told how to approach things when they may have very creative ideas for how to do things in a more productive way. 

But how much autonomy can really be given in a manufacturing environment given the type of work that needs to get done? Turns out, quite a bit. Enter Dynatronix, based in Amery, Wisconsin.  They are the leading DC, pulse and reverse power supply manufacturer in the United States and decided, two years ago, to extend complete autonomy to all employees (including their hourly, manufacturing employees) to decide how to approach their work in the most productive, efficient ways. They made the decision to institute a Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE).

Since 1971, Dynatronix had built relationships with small companies to provide custom-built power supply products. They were a traditionally operated company with a competitive edge due to a great reputation, personable salespeople, superior engineering, and great customer service. But the market changed quickly when large Fortune 500 companies began acquiring the Dynatronix client base. Suddenly the small businesses they had built relationships with over the past 40 years were owned by multi-billion dollar companies, with executives who only focused on the bottom line, not a subjective “gut feeling” or past relationship. The need to institute company-wide measurement systems became a requirement, not an option. Their customers wanted to see actions, priorities, timelines, and delivery guarantees based on data. In other words, they only cared about the results.

With a setting like that, you might think a company would crack down and begin to dictate exactly how everything had to be done to ensure customers would get what they needed and be satisfied. Dynatronix took a different route, and so are many other companies around the country that are in this boat.  Instead of dictating how the work needed to happen, they started getting very clear on what needed to happen. This, then, opened the door for employees to use the what to determine the how

Now, in a manufacturing environment, the major worry is what happens if you give control over how the work happens to the employees and they don’t show up? It’s simple. They are now a performance issue. Not an attendance issue. A performance issue. By not ‘showing up’, the work suffers and has a negative impact on the customer. That’s the issue, and it must be addressed. 

Determining clear goals with objective measures allows for 100% autonomy, and also sets the stage for employees to be held accountable. Accountability practices often fall short when there isn’t enough clarity around what was supposed to be done in the first place. Excuses can be given, managers feel guilty, and then everyone is apologizing – but nothing changes. The same thing happens week after week, month after month. 

Dynatronix knew that in order to motivate employees enough to produce their best work, they needed to have autonomy to do that. But autonomy can’t live on its own. Accountability is the other side of that coin.  An equal balance between the two provides the perfect foundation for employee engagement to rise, and positive bottom line impacts to occur. 

Historically, Dynatronix was delivering customer product on-time in the 70% range. With their transition to a Results-Only Work Environment, they now average a 90% on-time delivery rate.  When they quote a delivery date for their clients, they can back up that promise with data.

Their productivity growth is clearly seen with their largest production contract. In 2012, the custom product took more than 50 hours to build. In 2013, operating in a ROWE, that was cut down to 35 hours.

The bottom line?

100% autonomy in exchange for 100% accountability. It’s the new employee agreement. 

Cali Ressler is Co-Founder of CultureRx, the sole executor of ROWE training and certification. She can be contacted at

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The Job Market is Changing. Are You Ready?

The job market is changing. Are you ready? Participating in and purchasing a wage and benefit survey will help.

Today some employers are having difficulty finding quality candidates. We are hearing concerns that there is a supply and demand challenge for some positions. We are learning that fewer young people are attending four year college programs in science and engineering. Many of you have positions that do not require a four year degree but have become more technical and utilize technology that requires additional skills and knowledge.

The economy is changing and the job market is improving. Talented workers can now more easily move from one job to another. Are you prepared? Do you have pay and benefit practices that are competitive? Do you know what other companies are paying for each of the positions within your company? Has healthcare reform impacted the balance of pay and benefits in your organization?

With the challenges facing Manufacturing organizations today it is even more important to ensure that your pay and benefit programs are competitive. Accurate market data ensures that your pay practices help your organization retain the “best and the brightest”. Good market information is current and specific to position, industry and geographic area. Market data is best acquired through Salary Surveys conducted by independent organizations who gather actual pay rates and practices from real companies. 

While compensation may not be a top motivator for most employees, your pay levels (compared to the market) should not create dissatisfaction that overshadows other efforts to promote a healthy environment where engaged employees feel successful and rewarded. As we are all aware, engaged employees mean a higher quality product or service, better efficiency and more money to the bottom line.

What are the elements of an effective pay and benefits program?

  1. Total Rewards Philosophy: (examples)
    1. We pay at the 50th percentile of the market or
    2. Our cash compensation is slightly below market, but our benefits package is better than market or
    3. Our base pay rates are below market but our incentive plan brings the total compensation level to above the 50th percentile of market.
  2. Internal Equity: Ensuring positions are paid based on the work performed and the skills required by comparing positions within our organization based on common factors or elements used to determine ranking. 
  3. External Equity: comparison of our total rewards practices against those in the marketplace where we recruit our talent.
  4. Program design: Pay tied to performance at the individual and/or corporate level, is the program legally defensible and does it align with the strategic goals of the organization?
  5. Performance Measurement: Individual and corporate performance measurement tools, are we measuring the right things in the best way.
  6. Benefits: Are the benefits we offer what our employees value and how do they compare to others in our industry and local market?
  7. Market Conditions/Budget: Can our total rewards program flex with the market conditions we face as an organization and be managed within a budget?

Competitive pay and benefit programs make it easier to attract and retain quality employees and most components of an effective total rewards program require current, accurate and sufficiently specific information from the marketplace. 

Wage and benefit surveys provide needed market data to determine competitive pay levels and help in the design or evaluation of your total rewards program. Participating in independently conducted wage and benefit surveys ensures that there will be quality data for all of us, the more companies (of all sizes) that participate in providing information to the independent survey the better the results.

Informal data collection practices such as conversations with colleagues in the same industry or conducting a survey by calling “friends” and “counterparts” in the industry could mean you both are in violation of confidentiality policies and sometimes federal anti-trust laws. 

Independently conducted wage and benefits surveys are essential to a successful total rewards program in any organization and the return on your investment in surveys along with the use of design experts in Total Rewards can be substantial.

Debra Englund, CEO of HRExpertiseBP, a Minneapolis based Organizational Effectiveness consulting firm specializing in Process Design and Human Resources. Contact Debra at or visit

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MN Economic Outlook

October survey results mark the 23rd straight month Minnesota’s Business Conditions Index has remained above growth neutral. The index slipped to a very healthy 63.7 from September’s 66.3.

Components of the index from the October survey of supply managers in the state were new orders at 65.4, production or sales at 67.4, delivery lead time at 62.2, inventories at 67.0, and employment at 56.9. “Durable goods producers, especially those with ties to vehicle manufacturing, are experiencing strong growth. Nondurable goods manufacturers, including food processors, benefited from an expanding U.S. economy. Growth in construction continues to be a source of state growth,” said Goss. Average weekly wages expanded by 0.9 percent over the past 12 months for private workers in Minnesota.

Dr. Ernest Goss of Creighton University, used the same methodology as The National Association of Purchasing Management to compile this information. An index number greater than 50 percent indicates an expansionary economy, and an index under 50 percent forecast a sluggish economy, for the next three to six months.

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