Interview with Rosler Metal Finishing USA CEO Bernhard Kerschbaum
Skills or culture? Which matters more in the hiring process? For many manufacturers, it’s a riddle as difficult to answer as “which came first — chicken or egg?” For the team at Rosler Metal Finishing USA in Battle Creek, it’s a question with only one right answer.
“Good skills can be taught and bad skills can be fixed, but the damage of hiring one person who works against the company culture can outweigh a dozen great hires,” says Bernhard Kerschbaum, CEO of Rosler USA.
Finding talented employees in manufacturing may be harder than it’s ever been and a super-selective policy of winnowing down potential recruits based on culture does little to ease that burden. It all comes down to knowing your culture, having a plan and sticking to it. Rosler knows they don’t make it easy, but their talent search isn’t about the easy answer, it’s about a long-term goal to set the company up for success today, tomorrow and for generations to come.
“We can’t afford to overlook the person who might be the perfect fit to our culture but lacks some basic skills — unfortunately that’s what I see a lot of manufacturers doing and it’s coming back to bite them,” says Kerschbaum. “If I have somebody with the right basic skill set, I can work with that, we can retrain them and provide them with classes. It’s not that simple with culture, so we put our focus there during hiring.”
When Kerschbaum took over the reins as CEO in 2014, he was a former employee returning after a six-year absence. It provided him a clear outlook of what Rosler, as a company, had lost during that time.
“It wasn’t the same Rosler,” Kerschbaum explains. “Something was missing and the more I looked, the more it came down to the culture. It was inconsistent. We’d lost who we were. We’d lost what made us unique.”
His first duty as CEO was clear: redevelop the culture to take the best of what Rosler was and combine it with the vision he had for its future.
It all starts with the interview process as Rosler utilizes a cultural interview to be a tell-all of how the applicant will fit.
“It’s less about what they say and more about how they say it,” says Kerschbaum explaining that there are situations where using words like “I” indicate the individual is not as team oriented as the culture requires.
Once hired, a rigorous on-boarding process begins. Regular check-ins, four annual evaluations — three short quarterlies and one extensive annual evaluation — and weekly or bi-weekly one-on-ones all keep the communication at Rosler flowing.
“These conversations ensure no issues fester for too long,” explains Kerschbaum, walking through the whole process with a smile.
He should smile. The cultural interview and onboarding allow the company to maintain a consistent culture and highlight the employees who will push that culture forward as the leaders of the next generation. For them, skills training, tuition reimbursement opportunities, and paths for advancement are all readily available.
“Our future growth depends on our employees,” Kerschbaum says. “A lot of the skills we need are not easily found, regardless of who applies. Training takes time and resources so you want to do it right. By looking at the culture first — making that the focus — you increase the odds of getting it right the first time. That’s something every business leader wants.”
This article appeared in the August 2017 issue of MiMfg Magazine. Read the full issue and find past issues online.