Ajax Metal Forming of Minneapolis, MN picked up another StarTribune Top Workplaces honor for 2019. That’s five and counting.
StarTribune Top Workplaces recognition is no small thing. It tells people that our company cares about our employees. It gets our name out there via a major metropolitan newspaper. More importantly, it means that our people think Ajax is a swell place to work.
We like that. A lot. It’s the kind of humbling endorsement that goes far beyond industry awards (we like those too, BTW).
If you’ve never run a business, you may not appreciate just how important your people are to the success of your company. When people think highly of the company they work for, they’re more effective at their jobs. Customers sense that right away.
Ajax is celebrating our 75th anniversary this year. We’ll continue to do what it takes to remain one of the top employers in the Twin Cities area. The future of our company depends on having great people in every role.
Ajax Metal Forming Solutions, a Heartland Equity Partners company, has once again been named one of the Top 150 Workplaces in Minnesota by the Star Tribune newspaper.
“Ajax Metal Forming has received the Star Tribune Top 150 Workplaces award for four consecutive years,” said Ajax Vice President Don Wellman. “Our workplace colleagues, managers and owners are committed to providing a safe, productive and rewarding work environment. We are honored to receive this recognition.”
Left to right – Ajax Metal Forming Collegues Tiffany Schluter, Don Wellman, Kent Djubek, Brandon Holmes, and Curt Jasper along with Tom Ahonen of Heartland Equity Partners.
Star Tribune Publisher Michael J. Klingensmith said, “The companies in the Star Tribune Top 150 Workplaces deserve high praise for creating the very best work environments in the state of Minnesota. My congratulations to each of these exceptional companies.”
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“We’re building a deep bench,” said Ajax Director of Operations Curt Jasper.
Curt Jasper and Courtney Mickelson devote huge amounts of time and energy to the people side of the business.
No, Curt wasn’t talking about a company softball team. This busy manufacturing company needs multi-skilled people who can step into pretty much any role on the plant floor as needed and perform well. As leader of Ajax’s talent management effort, Curt has been innovating new ways to build his workforce since he joined Ajax four years ago. He and Administrative Assistant Courtney Mickelson have devoted huge amounts of time and energy towards the people side of the business.
“It’s all about managing talent. We’ve examined every corner of our business looking for ways to improve our career focus,” Curt said. “Every organization has practices they need to get better at, including us. But we wanted to avoid becoming too inwardly-focused.”
The Ajax team is proactively learning how to grow the company’s talent pool by volunteering on local organizations’ boards or discussion panels to understand colleague and employer issues.“ We always look for new avenues to approach our next career objective,” Curt said.
The Company’s #1 Talent Builder – The Skills Matrix
Ajax Plant Manager Brandon Holmes is a perfect example of how development programs can identify and grow talented people quickly. Brandon joined Ajax in 2007 and worked his way up through production, fabrication, logistics, and management roles to become the company’s newest Plant Manager. Brandon is a credentialed Class A Journeyworker whose professional development includes creating, attending, and instructing the M-Powered manufacturing program at Hennepin Technical College and the sheet metal program at Anoka Technical College, both in Minneapolis. Brandon has completed coursework in lean manufacturing and six sigma process improvement, and is a Certified Professional Project Manager (CPPM).
Plant Manager Brandon Holmes keeps the company’s Skills Matrix current.
That’s a pretty impressive resume for such a young professional. But Ajax managers believe Brandon’s success story should not be all that unusual. In fact, they believe it’s repeatable using a key weapon in the Ajax workforce arsenal: the Skills Matrix.
The Ajax Skills Matrix is a color-coded grid that shows a composite of production skills needed and mastered by members of the Ajax workforce. This at-a-glance talent management tool, posted prominently in the company break room, inspires workforce members to learn new skills and become the multi-skilled team that boosts production efficiency. Managers can also assess the available skills at any given time and contrast that to the production schedule, enabling them to quickly identify and correct any future gaps.
Benefits To Workforce and Customers Alike
Put yourself in the Ajax customer’s shoes (if you already have, thank you!) and imagine you’ve just handed off a critical project on a tight time line. Wouldn’t you be happy to know the many ways the Skills Matrix improves performance on your project? Here are just a few examples:
- Increased workforce competency and greater personal commitment to your project’s success.
- Greater management understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of people assigned to your project.
- Increased production capacity and efficiency through earlier detection of skills shortages.
- Improved recruitment efficiency through hiring and training people with backgrounds in areas of need.
- Better project planning based on projected availability of skilled people.
- More consistency and stability, keeping the company, and your projects, moving forward.
- Better product quality and reduced production bottlenecks.
- Inspires workforce members to build their talents because the company’s steady growth yields new career opportunities.
It Starts At The Top
The Skills Matrix only works when company management is committed to seeing it through and keeping it embedded in the minds of people at all levels of the company. Vice President of Sales Don Wellman said the Skills Matrix must become part of the Ajax core culture. “It starts with us,” he said. “Management needs to prioritize the Skills Matrix in order to get the most from it.”
Don said once people begin to see the benefits of the Skills Matrix, the cultural embedding gets easier. “The good news is that everyone can see how well it works,” Don said. “That gives the entire Skills Matrix project plenty of momentum to keep it rolling forward.”
Colleagues from Ajax Metal Forming hosted an exhibit at the Veterans Career Fair on Tuesday, July 11, 2017 at the DoubleTree By Hilton hotel in Bloomington Minnesota. This career fair, held annually and organized by The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), is the largest career fair dedicated to veterans in Minnesota.
Curt Jasper, head of Human Resources at Ajax, has been exhibiting at this event annually along with Ajax colleagues Patt Patterson and Jose Chavarria. The Ajax team created special apparel for the event that features a combination of military fatigues and manufacturing uniforms.
Ajax Colleagues Patt Patterson, Jose Chavarria, and Curt Jasper greet potential recruits at the 11th annual Veterans Career Fair on Tuesday, July 11, 2017 at the DoubleTree By Hilton in Bloomington , Minnesota. (Click to enlarge)
“Military veterans succeed at Ajax Metal Forming because of the excellent training and relevant experience they acquire on military duty,” Jasper said. “This Veterans Career Fair is a terrific opportunity for Ajax to attract these outstanding candidates who want to continue formalized “training”. That’s why we exhibit here every year.”
Jasper said Ajax is recognized as an outstanding employer in the region. The company was named as a Top Workplace by the StarTribune newspaper for the third year in a row, and was recently named as the Anoka County Employer of the Year. The company is also a MNSHARP Worksite, awarded to companies who demonstrate an excellent safety record.
About The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development is the state’s principal economic development agency. Agency programs promote business recruitment, expansion and retention, international trade, workforce development and community development. The agency facilitates an economic environment that produces good jobs and improves the quality of the Minnesota workforce.
185 companies exhibited at this year’s fair. Career-seeking veterans are admitted free of charge. This is the 11th year DEEDS has organized this event.
Members of the EJ Ajax team were present at the 2016 Veterans Career Fair held at the Earle Brown Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota on July 13, 2016. In attendance were Erick Ajax, co-owner of the company, along with U.S. Military veterans Arthur “Patt” Patterson, Jose Chavarria, and Curt Jasper, who heads up the company’s recruiting efforts. Below is a 1-minute video of the experience: