Below is a lightly edited transcript of an interview with Brad Walker, office manager of True Manufacturing Company in Mexico, Missouri. The interviewer is Ruth Weirich, an aha! Process consultant and author of Workplace Stability. True Manufacturing implements a number of workplace stability strategies, including the use of a support coach, and its employees have access to small dollar loans.

Tell us about the support coach that comes to your business.

The resource network in our community of Mexico, Missouri, started with a grant; the Mark Twain region of government here in Missouri gave the city or gave the chamber a grant to start this program. We’ve just crossed a year. Now we are in the stage of the companies helping to pay for the services. Darlene, the resource coach, comes in once a week for a few hours, and basically any of our team members that are having any kind of stresses outside of work sign up to spend time with Darlene. They can just go in and mark down a time that they need to see her, without their name or anything like that. They just mark down a time and then they show up to see her at that time. Some of them we know that they’re coming in, and some of them we don’t. It just kind of depends on them and what they are comfortable with. Darlene has been able to help multiple team members in ways that have taken stress off our leadership, and she has been able to get something done almost immediately for the employees.

What are some examples of how Darlene has supported employees?

We had a team member whose son was in a bad car accident and was confined to a wheelchair, and Darlene was able to get an ADA ramp built on the front of their house for them at no charge to the family. It was a huge stress off that family; that’s what they were worrying about all the time. We have a team member whose son was having some mental health issues, and she helped him and he just gives her tons of credit for helping his family, and his family is doing phenomenal right now. Those are just very few of the issues that she’s been able to help us with, with team members. And it just takes that stress off of them.

They’re more focused here. We have our stuff that we focus on with safety and production, and they’re out there pushing it to get other people to go when they need help. It’s definitely been a big success. Our supervisors like it because it is another resource for them. We do have an EAP as well. But with her here, I mean, she can contact somebody right here local and get any issues taken care of for them.

Has your retention improved?

I think so. I think one of the biggest things that I hear is that the company cares. Like they care what’s going on outside here, not just about what’s inside these walls. They care about me, they care about my family, what that life looks like outside of here. They’re helping us with that as well. We definitely see an uptick in morale.

When the grant ran out, this year we started funding that ourselves. There are four businesses here in town that participate. It was super easy for me to go to the company and go, “Hey, can we get this money to keep this program going?” It didn’t take anything to sell it to them to say, “Yep, we’re gonna keep doing it.” They believe in it. They’re looking at one of our other facilities to possibly start there as well.

Darlene has been fantastic for us. We had a team member who was living in a camper with his family—his wife and his baby—and their heat went out. He was at work, and she was right there trying to help. The other day, she helped a guy who had an issue with his car; the problem was resolved within 30 minutes, and had it not been solved, he might have missed 10 hours of work the next day.

That is a huge tradeoff to get him peace of mind, to be able to keep him here where he’s productive, getting paid instead of being out the next day for 10 hours because of another car issue.

We had another employee with a car issue. We initially thought it was the battery. The battery was checked, the alternator was checked, and he had some connection issues going up to the battery that he was not comfortable trying to fix himself. He didn’t have the tools. That’s when our supervisor was able to gather the tools for him. A lot of it was just getting the tools and the reassurance to have somebody there to help work with you. It didn’t cost anybody anything but five or ten minutes.

Do you offer small dollar loans?

We have three financial institutions here in Mexico that offer loans like this. They’re all 100% backed by community members. A normal loan is about a thousand dollars, and if they’ve been here for a year, it’s super easy to get it set up. It’s straight payroll, not a payroll deduction. Basically, it is a direct deposit account to a bank. Darlene would have to tell us for sure, but of all four businesses, all four companies that are doing it here in Mexico, I think they have never had anybody default on a small dollar loan.

An online Workplace Stability workshop is scheduled on April 4, 2023. Click here for more information or to register.