Sportech: Investing in Employees and the Community

August 21, 2018

The United States is experiencing a “skills gap”—or shortage of skilled workers for specialized jobs. It’s a growing problem nationwide, particularly in rural areas.

Some companies are choosing to proactively address this issue through employee development. With a focus on growth and sustainability, companies such as the locally owned Sportech are providing incentives such as better wages, training and benefits.

Sportech designs, develops and produces products and accessories for the powersports industry, such as enclosures, windshields and body panels. As the company celebrates its 25th year, it’s poised for a record year of growth.

The company is already a major employer in Elk River, with over 250 employees. In an effort to attract and retain the best workers, Sportech announced it was increasing its starting wage to $15 an hour for all basic assembly and manufacturing positions last year.

“We want to be an employer of choice — that’s very important to us,” says Sheila Swancutt, director of human resources. Swancutt notes the company had been struggling to find skilled workers but the wage increase has helped boost recruitment efforts.

Many of Sportech’s employees begin as temporary employees. The company has 100 temporary associates through Atlas Staffing on site daily. “It’s important for people who have never worked in manufacturing to try it out,” explains Swancutt. “Often employees start as temp workers. If they like it and fit into the culture, after a few months they’re typically hired on with full benefits, including paid time off.”

A lot of Sportech’s training happens on the job. It’s a place where people who have never held a power tool can learn from the ground up. Ambitious, dedicated workers have opportunities for advancement.

Sportech invests heavily in employee education and training. One prime example of this is the Sportech Leadership Academy. Twelve employees are selected each year through an internal application process to participate in an intensive, year-long leadership development program that includes monthly training sessions, a mentor and a coach.

Participants run the gamut, from floor employees to managers. They collaborate and learn practical skills such as conflict resolution and time management. Rather than a top down approach to management, the company teaches “servant leadership,” a model that deemphasizes hierarchy and aims to work collectively toward a common vision for the good of the community.

Sportech’s definition of success also includes making a difference in the larger community. It supports local organizations through charitable giving. In addition, each employee is encouraged to take one paid day off a year to volunteer for a nonprofit of their choice.

“We want to make an impact in the community,” says Swancutt. “We’re looking for people that want to join us in that while growing with the company.”