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Local Economy

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Manufacturing -- Productivity, Workforce analysis


US manufacturing is struggling with both a productivity and job quality challenge. These challenges are interconnected, reinforcing the need for increased coordination of economic and workforce development efforts. This article outlines the evaluation findings of a novel business-facing initiative called the Genesis Movement, to understand its role in reshaping the workforce experience within small- and medium-sized manufacturing businesses in Chicago, Illinois. Spearheaded in 2014 by the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center (IMEC), Genesis starts with the premise that workforce practices are central to business operations, productivity, and competitiveness—and therefore, manufacturing extension services need to promote improvements to job quality in support of long-term business success. This integrated approach represents a form of “inclusive innovation,” expanding the capacities of firms and workers to adapt in a competitive environment where pressures to maintain high quality while reducing costs are ever-present. Firms that participate in Genesis learn to adopt an inclusive organizational culture, using front-line worker engagement, skills training, and job quality improvements to drive performance and process innovation. As such, Genesis offers transferable lessons that could be leveraged by other manufacturing-supporting organizations to benefit their industry clients and the workers they employ.


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