Window maker Andersen Corp. tried hard to counter tight labor market trends by making its workplace more inclusive, as an effort to hire more workers.
The company provided workers with on-site English classes, prayer rooms and foot baths. It made work hours more flexible, such as adding pick-your-own holidays. And it started to recruit at multicultural events.
Its latest efforts target the hard-of-hearing and deaf population in Minnesota, after discovering that it had a cluster of 13 workers sprinkled across its factories in Bayport, Cottage Grove and Dubuque, Iowa.
The discovery launched the Bayport-based company into overdrive. Today it is installing new communication technologies, hiring accessibility coaches and sign language interpreters, and actively recruiting deaf job candidates for the first time.
“Inclusiveness is … an enabler for strong talent pipelines,” said Andersen spokeswoman Aliki Vrohidis.
The company must add adaptive technology to help with communication and make all work “environments, systems and processes more accessible for deaf or hard-of-hearing people.”
While Andersen did not provide details, all these steps come with a price tag estimated to exceed $100,000. Still, filling job openings — currently at 200 — is a must to keep expanding.
Despite news of recent corporate layoffs at companies such as 3M, Medtronic and Amazon, Andersen is among many Minnesota employers still grappling with the historically low unemployment rate and scrambling to find new workers to fill vacancies.
“I love this story so much because of how much Andersen has done and committed. It is a game-changer for the deaf community,” said Austin Beatty, program supervisor at the nonprofit Minnesota Employment Center For People Who Are Deaf, DeafBlind or Hard of Hearing (MEC).
“Sadly, we get calls only two or three times a year directly from an employer,” Beatty said. But Andersen reached out not only to help new recruits but for advice on how to help the hard-of-hearing employees feel more included. The company, he said, also wanted to improve retention.
Mike Clark notices the supportive changes. He has worked for Andersen for 26 years, most recently as the company’s information technology director. He reads lips and doesn’t use sign language.
“When I started, it was definitely a different day and time,” he said. “I had to fend for myself. But in the last few years, we have expanded our inclusivity. We have invested in language staff. … We are not perfect, but we are striving to be a better workplace and including our deaf workers in coming up with the solutions.”
(Source: Star Tribune)