Lincoln Industries

By Nancy Davis Jul 1, 2008
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Lincoln Industries

#20 Medium Company on the 2008 Best Small & Medium Companies To Work for in America List

Lincoln Industries posts no security guards on weekdays. Its employees trust each other so implicitly that they willingly get weighed and have vital statistics measured quarterly by health aides in a big open room where all can see. Such trust among employees reflects the culture of this manufacturer with a name honoring its Nebraska hometown.

Chief Executive Officer Marc Le­Baron often tells how plating supervisor Jerry Lukens took a 2 a.m. phone call from a customer. Window and door manufacturer Pella Corp. didn’t have enough patio door hinges, so Lukens loaded his car with hinges and drove 230 miles to Pella, Iowa, reaching the dock just before the 6 a.m. shift.

Influenced by “corporate beliefs and drivers, the culture creates an environment where the employee knew that this was the right thing to do,” LeBaron says proudly.

Founded in 1952 by LeBaron’s father, Dale, the company has expanded from only plating metal to providing research, technology, finishing and supply management services for customers such as John Deere; Harley-Davidson Motor Co.; PACCAR Corp., maker of Peterbilt and Kenworth t​rucks; and Tenneco Automotive.

The value-added services from 556 employees now support round-the-clock operation of 22 finishing lines offering 40 processes on a 300,000-square-foot campus. Roughly three-fifths work in production, and one-fifth each in professional or managerial roles. The value-added services have driven revenue growth at 20 percent a year, to more than $100 million in 2007.

Expansion from 160 employees in 1998 has created opportunities for workers to advance, explains Dan Krick, PHR, vice president of people resources. Even during the current economic downturn, as Lincoln’s customers generate less business, leaders position the company for growth by taking on new customers and holding to a “no layoffs” policy.

The 19-person people resources department “owns” the culture and maintains it through a complex four-part recruitment process, says Krick. Talent Manager Jodi Wacker screens candidates during an initial interview. Those demonstrating “fit” have a second interview to reveal inherent talents uncovered using structured questions based on job descriptions. A review of skill sets and a third round of interviews with hiring teams complete the process.

New hires train with “buddies” and “ambassadors” during orientation; all employees benefit from a schedule of in-house classes and generous tuition reimbursement for course work on any topic.

Because of Lincoln Industries’ rapid growth, leaders have multiple opportunities to study workers’ natural talents as they identify internal candidates for new and open positions. Many employees make significant advances: Chad Callahan, for instance, was hired as an operator in 1997, quickly became a supervisor and now heads the nickel chrome operation. The company paid for his associate’s degree and currently subsidizes the costs of a bachelor’s degree.

Julius Gandu, a forklift operator in the shipping and receiving department, expresses strong commitment to and engagement with the company because of training, opportunities to rearrange his workload and the emphasis on wellness. He participated in a “Kaizen event” with a team that studied shipping traffic and ultimately asked suppliers to schedule specific times for previously random deliveries. He says the change efficiently smoothes the flow of goods. Gandu also earns points in Lincoln’s wellness program by riding a bicycle to work.

LeBaron attributes many developments to Krick, whom he selected to head the “people” operation in 2002 and to whom he gave strategic as well as transactional responsibilities. Krick’s staff includes:

  • Two talent specialists.
  • Three learning and talent development specialists.
  • A six-person wellness, occupational health and safety team.
  • A communications manager, a public affairs and events coordinator, and an assistant.
  • A four-person services team.

Krick voices the most pride in a yearlong development program for cross-functional teams of potential leaders. In addition to receiving formal leadership training, these workers take on an action-learning assignment and strive to improve their health. Last year’s team introduced lean engineering to the company; in 2007, 24 lean-engineering projects were completed, resulting in annual savings of $2 million.

Profit sharing engages employees and drives constant internal and external communication. LeBaron and President Hank Orme provide employees with details about financials and business prospects; they share the data through monthly newsletters mailed to homes, roundtable discussions and meetings at the start of every shift. When Lincoln’s profit-sharing plan failed to pay out in December 2007, Orme personally made the announcement to every worker within 24 hours. Leaders also keep tabs on workers’ sentiments through attitude surveys; interestingly, employees gave the company the highest marks ever on the survey conducted this past March -- just months after they learned they wouldn’t receive the year-end profit-sharing payouts.

Yet Lincoln -- named five times to the Best Medium Companies to Work for in America list and now ranked No. 20 -- became nationally known for the wellness program that held average per-capita 2007 premiums for its self-funded health insurance to $5,800 a year. In addition, workers’ compensation costs for 2007 totaled $130,000 -- about one-quarter of expenses in 2003. The wellness program features:

  • Mandatory quarterly health checks and optional health risk assessments.
  • A yearlong physical activity challenge.
  • Cash incentives for participation in wellness activities.
  • A tobacco-cessation program that has reduced users from 65 percent to 19 percent of the staff in six years.
  • Gym membership subsidies.
  • Stretching before every shift.
  • A community blood drive.
  • Health and safety seminars.
  • Massage by a therapist to help prevent and reduce workplace injuries.

Every year, Lincoln’s senior executives sponsor and lead two trips to climb one of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks as literal and figurative challenges to workers who improve their health. One trip culminates the leadership development program, and the other rewards smoke-free wellness program participants. In 2002, 22 managers made the climb; in 2008, more than 100 employees plan to climb Mount Bierstadt. The wellness program isn’t about costs, says Orme. “We want employees to come to work feeling better and more satisfied. To convince people to adopt healthy lifestyles, you have to be persistent but patient -- and leaders have to walk the talk. Such a culture has to be embedded in the organization.”

Related Resources

List of Best Small Companies to Work

for in America, 2008

List of Best Medium Companies to Work for in America, 2008

50 Best Small & Medium Companies To Work for in America home page


Lincoln Industries’ Beliefs and Drivers

  • Our people and their unique individual talents are valued.
  • Appropriate recognition motivates our people to be successful.
  • Leaders create value.
  • Innovation creates continuous improvement.
  • Profitability ensures the survival of our company.
  • Positive relationships build loyalty.
  • Honesty is essential in all transactions.
  • We create value for our customers.
  • Wellness and healthy lifestyle are important to our success.

Drivers

  • Quality in everything we do.
  • Productivity improvement is a continuous process.
  • On-time delivery because customers depend on us.
  • A safe working environment is our commitment to each other.
  • Environmental responsibility is our commitment to our communities.
  • People development because our people create our success.
  • Company growth is the result of providing a superior service.
  • Value-added service means doing more for our customers.
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