Specialty Fabrics Review June 2019 - 35

FEATURE

by Pamela Mills-Senn

TODAY'S TIGHT LABOR MARKET CAN TURN EMPLOYEES

fter spending 18 years as an employee,
Chris Ritsema, owner of Holland, Mich.,
Canvas Innovations LLC, knew what kind
of work experience he wanted his own staff
to have. In business for 13 years, the company
primarily serves the marine industry, providing
enclosures, upholstery, covers/tops, flooring
and more, also offering products to commercial
markets. From the beginning, Ritsema created a
culture where employees feel valued and could
see advancement possibilities.

Canvas Innovations offers health care
and a SIMPLE IRA (Savings Incentive Match
PLan for Employees Individual Retirement
Account) to which it contributes. Birthdays
are celebrated, as is the end of summer
with a group outing. Personal achievement
is recognized and rewarded. Ritsema also
identifies employees interested in continuing
education and skills advancement, offering
opportunities for both, including attending
regional trade shows. He regularly updates
staff on where the company has been,
where it is currently and where it's going
so employees know he wants to grow the
business-very motivating to employees, he
explains. Ritsema has also implemented a
transparent tiered wage system so everyone
understands what's required to advance to a
different wage level. As a result of these and
other measures, Ritsema says turnover for his
staff (which numbers around 10 or so) has
averaged about 10 percent or less.

"We're very much about being a career-oriented company,"
Ritsema explains. "When we hire, we mention we're looking
for career-minded folks, not those who are just looking for
a job. We want those who have a bent for the industry and a
love for what they do."
Ritsema helps people plan for their future with the company.
New hires are reviewed at 30, 60 and 90 days. Then, after
about a year, he works with the employee on developing his
or her goals and career path. Career paths for all employees
are reviewed two or three times annually-it's important to
give people a vision for their future, Ritsema explains.

THE LABOR REALITY
Companies face numerous obstacles when
trying to attract and maintain a dependable,
motivated workforce. This is especially true
for manufacturers like specialty fabricators.
"There are few people who think of
sewing in a canvas shop as a career choice,"
says Amy Poe, co-owner of Wyckam LLC,
a Portland, Ore., provider of solutions for
projects requiring industrial sewing. The
company employs two full-time workers in
addition to Poe and her partner.

FICKLE, POSING CHALLENGES FOR COMPANIES THAT NEED TO
MAINTAIN A STRONG AND SKILLED WORKFORCE. BUT WITH
THE RIGHT APPROACH-AND GOOD BENEFITS AND WAGES-
EMPLOYERS CAN KEEP 'EM COMING BACK.

www.SpecialtyFabricsReview.com 35


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Specialty Fabrics Review June 2019

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