Mentorship – For Manufacturing Businesses, It’s Key to Access and Success

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by | Feb 13, 2024

by | Feb 13, 2024

Polaris MEP’s Aarin Clemons & Lindsey Brickle, and Omniseal Solutions’ Sebastian Moore at a 2024 manufacturing awards event.

Each January, many organizations celebrate National Mentoring Month with a few social media slides. But for manufacturing businesses, mentorship can be a “game changer” as they face the twin challenges of skilled worker shortages and generational shifts. We asked one of Rhode Island’s leading manufacturing companies, Omniseal Solutions (Saint-Gobain), how a year-round commitment to mentoring has yielded positive results. Saint-Gobain North America has received Top Employer certification for the United States and Canada from Top Employers Institute, nine times in a row. This is a company that consistently invests in its workforce and reaps the rewards! Sebastian Moore is the HR Manager for Omniseal Solutions in Bristol, RI, a specialized precision components manufacturing group. He shared perspective on mentorship both from his own personal experience and professional role. Read on for inspiration, links to learn more, and actionable tips!

Access => Success

This image shared by Moore on LinkedIn illustrates the importance of personal perspective.

Based on a study from The Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte, national estimates are that manufacturers will need to fill 4.6 million jobs by 2028. This is a big skills gap, with two twin challenges contributing to the issue: a general labor shortage and a generational shift. 20% of the existing manufacturing workforce is already behond retirement age and younger generations are either unaware or uninterested in industry careers. How could they be interested if they’ve never had access or exposure to manufacturing businesses? Moore says this is where mentorship can have a great impact on tomorrow’s talent:
In high school, I had the opportunity to participate in a mentoring program through Roger Williams University in Bristol, RI called “Bridge to Success”. This program provided college readiness courses and mentorship to economically disadvantaged BIPOC students. Through this program and the diverse cadre of students and staff who served as our mentors, I began to understand one of the most important things mentorship is truly provides – Access: • Access to information previously unknown, • Access to ideas and perspectives previously unconsidered, • Access to people who are genuinely interested in helping us define and achieve our goals… • and so much more. I realized that for me, at that time, access was my barrier. I truly didn’t know what was actually possible. Until then, I had never had the opportunity to interact with anyone who looked like me that was achieving the professional success (and subsequently economic success) others seemed to expect and take for granted.
Little wonder that one of Moore’s favorite quotes is “A mentor empowers a person to see a possible future and believe it can be obtained.” (Shawn Hitchcock)

Mentorship at Omniseal Solutions/Saint-Gobain – Various Programs, One Shared Commitment

At Omniseal Solutions in Bristol, RI and across the Saint-Gobain organization, mentorship is approached through a variety of initiatives.
  • Locally, employees are assigned a “buddy” who trains and mentors them during onboarding
  • Locally, Saint-Gobain hosts job shadowing for the Polaris MEP/CCRI “Fast Track to Manufacturing” program, pairing future candidates with lead or senior machinists
  • Nationally & internationally, Saint-Gobain has a formal program that matches mentees with mentors based on career goals, interests and experience
  • Nationally & internationally, the company encourages informal mentorship and supports peer-to-peer learning
Says Moore, “Overall, mentorship is a key part of Saint-Gobain’s culture, and the company is committed to providing opportunities for employees to learn, grow, and develop their skills and careers.”

Mentorship Key to Attracting & Retaining the Next Generation of Talent

Many manufacturers report that mentorship has slowed or stopped the “revolving door” in which young talent arrives, begins onboarding, but swiftly departs. This is often because they feel overwhelmed or unsure, feelings that mentors can help them work through by providing guidance and support. Turnover rate (retention) is a major challenge in manufacturing; the TWI Institute reported that it’s between 27% and 39%.  This rate is lower than many other industries but the loss of even one skilled employee can be debilitating to a small manufacturing company. By facilitating relationships between mentees and mentors, Moore says Saint-Gobain can benefit in several ways including reducing turnover.
  1. Help to retain and develop talented employees, which can improve overall productivity and performance.
  2. Foster a culture of learning and development, which can lead to innovation and continuous improvement.
  3. Promote collaboration and communication across teams and departments, which can improve overall organizational effectiveness.
The Omniseal Solutions HR manager points out that mentoring should not be solely about showing a new hire how to run a machine. “Mentors can help new employees learn about the company’s culture, values, and expectations, as well as provide them with feedback and advice on their work. This can help new employees build confidence, develop their skills, and establish relationships within the company.”  

Advice and Resources for Smaller Rhode Island Manufacturers

Polaris MEP’s “State of Manufacturing” study found that more than 80% of RI manufacturers are small businesses with fewer than 50 workers. 53% of all manufacturing establishments in the Ocean State have fewer than 10 employees. This means companies are often very focused on delivering. They worry about adding tasks that fall outside production, which could make promoting mentorship feel unachievable. At times, Polaris MEP team members hear manufacturers worrying about investing in employees that might later leave the company. Moore has heard that too — he posted the image at left on LinkedIn in response … “What happens if we don’t [invest in employee development], and they stay?” We asked Moore to share his advice for manufacturers about investing time in mentorship.
“Consider the long-term benefits of mentoring. While it may seem like a time-consuming activity, mentorship can have a positive impact on employee engagement, retention, and productivity, which can ultimately improve the company’s bottom line. One way to invest time in mentorship without sacrificing production is to make it a part of your organizations or team’s culture. Encourage employees at all levels to participate in mentorship programs and provide training and support for both mentors and mentees. This can help to create a culture of learning and development, where employees are encouraged to share their knowledge and expertise with each other. Another approach is to integrate mentorship into the team’s performance goals. Set clear goals and expectations for mentoring relationships, and measure their impact on employee engagement, retention, and productivity. This can help to demonstrate the value and organizational commitment to mentorship, encouraging more employees to participate.”
Excellent advice for companies of any size. Our thanks to Sebastian Moore, HR Manager of Omniseal Solutions (Bristol, RI) for sharing his knowledge and expertise with the state’s manufacturing community. —————- Want to encourage mentoring at YOUR company? Ready to reap the benefits of engagement, retention and productivity? Polaris MEP can help! Click here to email Workforce Manager Aarin Clemons and begin discussing how to harness the power of mentorship at your manufacturing business.

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