Employment and Jobs

Genesis at Work: Evaluating the Effects of Manufacturing Extension on Business Success and Job Quality

December 18, 2019  • Nichola Lowe (UNC), Greg Schrock (PSU), Maureen Conway & Ranita Jain

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Manufacturers looking to improve productivity and efficiency often turn to Manufacturing Extension Partnerships (MEPs), public-private partnerships supported by the US Department of Commerce that provide consulting services to support their growth and competitiveness. These partnerships often focus on implementing lean manufacturing strategies to cut waste and eliminate production bottlenecks. But what if they also adopted people strategies, focusing on job quality alongside process and product strategies to help businesses solve their problems?

IMEC took just this approach with its Genesis initiative, working with manufacturers to implement “good jobs” strategies to improve workforce engagement, productivity, and stability, alongside process and product improvements. Launched in 2014, with the support of the Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance (CWFA), the Genesis initiative is based on the premise that workforce practices are central to a firm’s operations, productivity, and competitiveness.

Through Genesis, IMEC fine-tuned a strategic planning approach that helped companies explore process- and product-related challenges that were deeply interwoven with people-related challenges.

A four-year evaluation of IMEC’s implementation of Genesis, conducted by the Aspen Institute’s Workforce Strategies Initiative in collaboration with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Portland State University found that this people-process-product approach not only benefited workers, but also helped businesses save money and grow. Key findings based on IMEC’s work with these 22 manufacturers include:

  • 55% of all Genesis companies and 61% of the most actively participating companies reported increases in annual sales, compared to 37% of non-Genesis companies that IMEC worked with.
  • 71% of all Genesis companies and 79% of the most actively participating companies reported cost savings, compared to 47% of non-Genesis companies that IMEC worked with.
  • Average annual earnings for all workers employed by Genesis companies increased by 12% in real, inflation-adjusted terms from 2014 to 2017.
  • Average worker turnover rates among all Genesis companies declined from 5.5% in 2015 to 4.3% in 2017. Among the most actively participating companies, turnover declined even more — from 5.8% in 2015 to 3.3% in 2017.

This report details the process IMEC followed to implement Genesis, how it worked with manufacturers, results from the initiative, and key considerations for other MEPs, funders, and policymakers looking to learn more about this approach and how they can support similar work in their communities.

We thank the Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance, the Hitachi Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation for their generous support of this work.

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Manufacturing Extension Partnerships often focus on improving efficiency. But what if they also targeted #jobquality? @IMECillinois tested this approach, with promising results for participating companies.

Workforce practices are central to a firm’s competitiveness. @IMECillinois’s Genesis initiative helped businesses adopt “good jobs” strategies alongside process and product improvements.

Through its Genesis initiative, @IMECillinois helped companies tackle operational challenges that were deeply interwoven with people-related challenges.

Business strategies that integrate people, process, and product generate better results for both workers and businesses. Learn more in this evaluation of @IMECillinois’s Genesis initiative by @AspenWorkforce, @UNC, and @Portland_State.

Companies participating in @IMECillinois’s Genesis initiative reported increased annual sales, cost savings, improved earnings among workers, and reduced turnover. Learn more in this evaluation by @AspenWorkforce, @UNC, and @Portland_State.

 

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