Creating a culture of service and engagement

Cirtronics has grown into a 175,000 square-foot facility with 200 employees and was recently recognized by the New Hampshire Business of Social Responsibility for its people-centric culture.

By Tim Piotrowski, AME July 13, 2017

Since opening its doors in 1979, Milford, NH based, employee owned, contract product manufacturer, Cirtronics has always utilized principles of Lean and continuous improvement to set themselves apart from their competitors. In addition, president and CEO Gerardine Ferlins wanted to create a work environment where employees felt safe, happy and felt excited to come to work.

Today Cirtronics has grown into a 175,000 sq-ft facility with 200 employees and was recently recognized by the New Hampshire Business of Social Responsibility for its people-centric culture. Front and center is their "Six We Serve" philosophy, which outlines the six different entities they are committed to serving: customers, suppliers, the corporation, the environment, community and employees.

"Effectively serving all six simultaneously demonstrates that it is possible to serve, make money and nurture happiness and delight among employees," said Cirtronics director of marketing Stephanie Gronvall.

One of the main reasons Cirtronics has been successful in building a people-centric culture is through its commitment to honest, transparent communication among its leadership teams and employees. The employees are 40 percent owners in the company through the Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), which drives engagement and behavior.

Once a year, a visual display board is placed on the shop floor. For several weeks, employees share their ideas, which can either be strategic, tactical or something like "I think we should bring in fruit on Tuesdays." From there, each of these ideas and suggestions is read and reviewed by the leadership team and discussed as the yearly plan is established and the budget is determined.

In addition, employees use team boards throughout the facility each day. This allows team members to share thoughts about what is working or not working or how a process can be changed. While these ideas don’t always result in immediate change, it does give everyone a chance to see it and it can be shared and discussed in larger groups.

Another visual engagement tool used every day is the service agent board, which is a magnetic board with buttons and diagrams representing different teams throughout the organization. Representatives from each team can visit the board to let other teams know they need additional resources to complete a job during the daily service agent meeting. If one team has an extra person they can let other teams know that someone is available to help another team.

Employees are informed and engaged in several ways. Monthly sales goals are shared with all and daily updates are communicated on how they are meeting those goals. General monthly meetings are held, and more focused quarterly meetings called "The View," where employees are invited in small groups to hear financial reports on the company’s performance and other current information. Second, a daily email goes out to employees detailing how close the company is to meeting both financial and production goals. Whether Cirtronics is having a good month or a bad one, each employee knows what’s happening every day.

"We begin by making the commitment to be honest and authentic. Obviously, surprises do happen, but if you consistently communicate with a truthful intent and genuine interest of the employees and what’s going on, people are open to being transparent, as well. And they’re more excited because they realize there’s no hidden agenda," said Gronvall.

Besides engaging with employees, Cirtronics is committed to engagement with its customers utilizing their Precision Engagement model. The model was formalized over the last few years but its roots stretch all the way back to the company’s beginning. Cirtronics has always approached customer relationships with the goal of effectively meeting the specific needs of each customer. Over time that has evolved into a highly developed process for initial customer engagement and nurturing ongoing customer relationships.

Precision Engagement means that the Cirtronics team is very proactive and engages with their customers in every part of the process. Gronvall described this in greater detail, "We’re not going to talk at them, we’re going to listen to them. We’re going to tailor the services we have internally to fit their needs. We are going to be engaged in the whole process and we are very precise in everything we do because we want to be sure we read every single detail."

Cirtronics CFO, George Mandragouras, commented, "this attention to detail and high-level of engagement has led to a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9 percent over the last five years."

Tim Piotrowski, AME. This article originally appeared on AME’s website. AME is a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Hannah Cox, content specialist, CFE Media,

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