Marlin Steel on Powering Fast Growth by Sharing the Wealth

October 30, 2014 | American Manufacturing

For many businesses, getting employees engaged and motivated to make the company succeed is a huge part of driving results. In the long run, making sure that you have a driven, well-prepared team of workers who are invested in seeing the company do well will do more for your bottom line than slashing employee benefits and salaries ever will.

As a matter of fact, Marlin Steel is having the best year it has everMarlin Steel Employees had in terms of revenue and profit, while paying out the biggest bonuses ever as well. This is a part of the reason why Marlin Steel CEO and columnist Drew Greenblatt rejected “that thesis” of cutting salaries and benefits in his most recent article.

Seven Tips for Powering Fast Growth

In the post, seven effective strategies for driving employee engagement and company success are given. Marlin Steel has used each of these strategies to enormous effect, maybe your own business can benefit from them as well.

#1: Big Money Bonuses

As the old saying goes, “you get what you pay for.” In business, this can be a hard-learned truth. If you want to get top-quality results from employees, you have to create an incentive for top quality work. This usually means paying big bonuses when they’re earned.

One example quoted in the article is a practice used by one big-name pharmaceutical company where they give their PhDs a $20 bonus for getting a patent. This may not sound like much, but it generates an immediate reward and incentive for taking the time to file patents and see the process through before a competitor can.

At Marlin Steel, employees are given merit bonuses that can range anywhere from 16% to 150% of their pay for a given pay period depending on how they perform. This kind of immediate, short-term, repeatable bonus keeps employees invested in making goals.

#2: Frequent Payments

Many employees live from one paycheck to the next. When employees are worried about whether or not they can make this month’s rent or mortgage, a big annual goal and bonus may feel both too big to handle and too far away to be worth the effort.

By keeping bonus goals short term and paying them out regularly when earned, you can keep employee attention focused on the “now.” Short-term goals are easier to digest for most, and the immediacy of the reward makes an employee more motivated to hit that goal so that they can pay their immediate bills or have spare cash ready for an emergency if needed.

#3: Make Targets on a “Micro” Level

In addition to making goals shorter-term, it is also important to make production targets on a “per cell” basis whenever possible. Company-wide “macro” targets take control of the bonus situation out of an individual employee’s hands. This can take any sense of engagement with meeting goals away from the employee, causing them to believe that their effort won’t create a tangible reward.

By making goals micro, basing bonuses on the performance of individual production cells, Marlin Steel manages to encourage effort from every member of a team. Team members know who they are relying on to meet goals, and they don’t want to disappoint the people they’re working with either. Plus, by setting goals on a micro level instead of a macro one, there is a greater sense of control instilled in employees over their ability to earn a bonus.

#4: Making Bonus Opportunities “Top to Bottom”

Make every full-time employee eligible for a bonus program
so that they’re all motivated to help meetMarlin Steel Cares About Our Employees! goals every pay period. Here a Marlin, everyone from the lowest-paid employee to the top generals are a part of the bonus program, and they work hard to meet every two-week goal they have.

#5: Tie Quality of Work to Bonuses

For manufacturers, making great products that entice clients to make repeat business is a must. If one of Marlin’s production cells creates poor products, they have to remake that part until they get it right. Because this detracts from a cell’s ability to make production goals in the next week, every production cell is motivated to make sure that every product they make is perfect the first time.

This prevents workers from giving in to the temptation to cut corners, as it takes less time to verify that a part is right by double-checking it than it does to completely re-do the entire production run.

#6: Make Goals Clear-Cut and Objective

Setting easy to understand production goals with a “pass or fail” goal
that is fixed gives employees a Marlin Steel at Work sense that the goals you’re setting are fair. Constantly shifting goals that change before they’re met or goals with nebulous, hard to understand terms cause employees to become unmotivated, as they get the feeling that the carrot being dangled in front of them will just be yanked out of reach every time they get too close.

As Drew puts it in the article, “One should only change the target for big things like when we bought our new medium frequency welder… it is phenomenally productive so it is only fair that the cell that deploys it has a new higher hurdle to get their new bigger bonus.” In short, goals should only be ratcheted up when they become easier to hit.

#7: Set Targets that are “Just Right”

Bonus goals should not be a “slam dunk” that employees can take for granted, but neither should they be some unobtainable “shooting for the moon” number. The first serves no purpose as a motivational tool, while the latter can quickly prove to be discouraging when employees realize that no amount of personal effort will allow them to meet their goals.

Instead, setting goals that aren’t too easy or too hard (a “Goldilocks” goal, if you will) will encourage employees to be active and engaged with hitting production targets without allowing them to become complacent.

See Drew’s original article in its entirety on, or contact Marlin Steel today to learn more about how Marlin’s employees are motivated to meet goals on a daily basis!

Marlin Steel Case Studies