Fall River Massachusetts is the home to Whirlpool Corp.’s commercial dryer plant, where a “Culture Committee” has been established to engage employees with their community and make improvements at the plant.
“Alex Silva, a supervisor on one of the lines and the Change Management Lead, approached me wanting to collaborate to get the word out about different engagement activities and saw how we can work on shaping the culture here,” said Plant Communicator Janelle Poitras.
Those tags alone helped us to save on our energy costs, and another environmental program involved employees picking up trash near the plant that netted 175 pounds of refuse last year and over 620 pounds this year with more than 35 employees participating.”
The committee of 12 members began in the summer of 2021 with the hopes of giving employees on the shop floor a different perspective about the company and the work that they do, while also gaining the perspective from those employees for leaders at the plant.
“That’s been really helpful for us to get insight into what these employees think, what they would want to get out of any engagement activities at the plant, and what they think would improve their employment experience.”
Activities spearheaded by the Culture Committee include a school supplies drive, a diaper drive, and a food drive in conjunction with the local United Way. They also worked with the Salvation Army on a coat drive. For furthering employee engagement, the committee started an ongoing recognition of long-term employees. Special lunches are held for employees with 25, 30, 40 or more years of service, and those employees are given different colored shirts that represent the number of years they’ve been working at the plant.
“They can wear those and be proud of how long they’ve been at Whirlpool and other employees can recognize that as well,” said Poitras. “We’ve had a lot of positive feedback from employees and supervisors who are wearing those shirts.” The plant also has an employee of the month recognition program where employees receive a certificate and have a personal story and a photo with their supervisor posted on the company’s internal news sharing platform, as well as a special parking space.
In collaboration with different leaders in the plant, other activities this committee supports are aimed at plant improvements in efficiency and safety, as well as suggestions on how to make the plant more environmentally responsible. Those environmental improvements are suggested through the use of what they call “Green Tags.”
“These are tags that employees can use when they see something that needs to be addressed or improved,” said Poitras. Environmental tags are green, blue for safety—with other colors assigned to additional categories. There are also “i-Improve” forms, which are another tool available for employees to provide their suggestions for continuous improvement within the plant.
In one example, more than a hundred air leaks in the plant’s compressor system were identified and fixed through the use of Green Tags and extensive work from the Energy Lead. “Those tags alone helped us to save on our energy costs, and another environmental program involved employees picking up trash near the plant that netted 175 pounds of refuse last year and over 620 pounds this year with more than 35 employees participating.”
The Culture Committee has been well received so far by employees, with 40-60 employees actively engaged out of the approximately 220 currently at the plant. “We’re encouraged at the participation and anticipate it continuing to grow,” said Poitras.