How can we retain our employees’ unique skills when the people who know “everything” retire? This is a highly topical subject for Danny van Deuzen, Managing Director of Mennens. Steel wire rope accounts for 25-30% of sales, and with an ambition to grow further in this segment, knowledge that has been built up over decades is a key piece of the puzzle.
“Knowledge and experience are essential to success when handling steel wire rope enquires. Most of the solutions we sell are far from standard, and to have employees with ‘I’ve-seen-that-before’ experience is invaluable. We still have some people with these unique skills, but we are facing a challenge since some of them will retire within a few years,” Danny says.
For Mennens Groningen, excellent know-how doesn’t just enable competitiveness. It’s critical to the safety of customers, employees and everyone else affected by the company’s products. You never see the same construction twice, which is why experience from similar solutions is crucial.
It is essential to make it easier for older employees to pass their experience on to the next generation. That’s why the group in 2016 launched a unique training programme for selected employees. Pairs of employees share a mentor and spend 18 months taking part in key training work. High-quality training is essential. It secures the company’s knowledge and is also a way to inspire – and retain – younger employees.
Programme Manager Kees van Tilborg has a long history with Mennens, starting in the steel wire factory four decades ago. He has seen the pace continuously increase, and says this calls for the perfect planning. Prior knowledge is crucial to success.
You never see the same construction twice, which is why experience from similar solutions is crucial
“What we do is not just about replacing steel wire ropes, it’s about giving advice regarding the construction and making it last and be safe for a long time to come,” Kees says. “You never see the same construction twice, which is why experience from similar solutions is crucial. And since our job – repairing bridges, for example – is to make society function, I’m very happy to let young and motivated colleagues inherit my knowledge.”