By Tim Waldo, CIS Workforce Readiness Specialist
Every organization has that person or that team that works behind the scenes, making things happen, diligently focused on helping the team succeed with little or no fanfare.
At one point in my career I worked for a manufacturing company. Willie worked in the warehouse and shipping department of that company for over 20 years. The work he did was demanding, the environment not so comfortable all the time, but Willie was a fixture at the company and contributed greatly to its overall success.
Generally, there was lots of excitement when a new contract was signed and the order was received, but not a lot of hoopla when the product was being crated up and prepared for shipment. But these last steps were critically important to satisfying the customer. Willie and the folks in the warehouse were quietly doing important work to help their team and their customer succeed.
The University of Tennessee Center for Industrial Services (UT CIS) has a long and rich history of serving the people of Tennessee, yet most Tennesseans have never heard of UT CIS. Their 50-plus years of service have done more than just impact the manufacturers of Tennessee and the state’s economy, they have impacted families and communities too. To add some perspective – in Fiscal Year 2016, 3,400 participants completed training programs offered by UT CIS.
The UT CIS website will tell you all that they do to serve manufacturers; from performance solutions, regulatory and sustainability solutions to workforce development and safety training. There are even several success stories that show the impact of their work with each client (https://cis.tennessee.edu/success/Pages/default.aspx).
What it can’t show you are the positive outcomes that flow down to the individuals who complete leadership training or who learn a new skill such as those involved in lean manufacturing. You can’t really see the many families who benefit when their loved ones learn better safety habits to protect themselves at work so that they return home safe and sound each evening.
When a shift supervisor or a new manager receives training to improve his or her skills as a leader, not only does that person benefit, but their team benefits as well. When the whole team is working well, stress is reduced and people are valued; they feel better about their role in the company and about their careers. That feeling of satisfaction follows them home. When things are good at work, the potential for things to go better at home is greater.
The prosperity of a community is not just a measure of its economic success; it is also a measure of the quality of life for its members. The prosperity of an individual – the richness of life, their success – is not just measured by the amount of money they earn. The average American worker spends about half their waking hours at work. If that time is well spent, if it is considered a good investment, the quality of life increases.
For over five decades UT CIS has been helping manufacturers improve working conditions and create safe, innovative and engaging workplaces. There are many cascading benefits that result from this work. Not all of those benefits can fit into a spreadsheet or in a box to be checked. Sometimes those benefits are experienced in the conversations after a good dinner as families talk about their day’s work and make plans for the future.