When it comes to good employee relations, DeKalb covers all the bases, with some flair.
President Rick Walters, himself a veteran of DeKalb Molded Plastics, sets the tone by taking each of the company's 130 employees out to breakfast or lunch on his or her anniversary. They leave work and go to a restaurant. Walters said it's a great way to get to know people.
But DeKalb's employee efforts go far beyond a free meal with the boss. A safety committee meets every month. And each quarter, management meets with all employees to talk about business and give an update on profit sharing.
In an era when it's tough to find good workers, DeKalb management stresses hiring veterans. In fact, veterans made up about one fourth of the 35 new hires last year. Press operator Skylar Jacquay, a National Guard member, surprised executives by nominating his company for a top award, and DeKalb won. Jacquay's is a classic plastics factory story: He was a temporary worker who became full time, and in just two years, rose through the ranks to become a setup technician.
At DeKalb, 12 percent of the total workforce is either active or retired members of the U.S. armed forces. The company has expanded its efforts for veterans, now even making up the difference in pay when they are deployed, for up to six months.
Kassy Davis, human resources director, is a dynamo who brings progressive ideas to the small-town processor. DeKalb went totally tobacco free in mid-2012. How is that special? DeKalb was a veritable chimney of smokers — more than 52 percent partook.
It's all part of a wellness program that Davis has launched. You can get a free chair massage, attend a health fair, or take a Zumba class, right at the factory.
Employees can earn up to $400 off on their health insurance premiums of they are active participants in their overall health.
And if you go into the lunchroom, certain food items in the vending machines are labeled as "better for you."
In recent years, DeKalb has revamped its new-employee orientation process, to explain the molder's core values and future goals. The firm also has a general tuition-reimbursement program.
Throw in events like family cookouts, a minor-league baseball game and a children's Christmas party, and DeKalb is a fun, fulfilling place to work.
And when DeKalb experienced a fire, an emergency response plan worked well, resulting in no injuries.