by David Castagnacci
Employee diversity and career development are attributes the management team of Sandvik Palm Coast takes pride in as part of their corporate culture.
Here since 1993, Sandvik Palm Coast (SPC) is owned by Sweden-based Sandvik, an international engineering corporation founded in 1862. Sandvik has sales in more than 160 countries and a workforce of 40,000 employees, including 120 in Palm Coast.
Diversity and inclusion are core values of the parent corporation’s vision – seeing diverse employee teams as more creative, innovative and effective. This attitude extends locally, especially in regard to multi-cultures, age and gender, with 50 percent of SPC’s management team being female. “When you have diversity, you are able to solve problems better. You have more thoughts and ideas presented,” comments Gary Davies, general manager of SPC.
Sandvik’s worldwide research and manufacturing facilities specialize in materials technology, machining solutions, and mining and rock technology. In Palm Coast, the company’s services play an important role in the international medical industry, manufacturing high-grade fine wires and wire-based components used within various fields of medical technology. Their products have advanced vascular therapies, sensing solutions such as glucose monitoring, progressive middle ear implants, and brain / spinal stimulation therapy that is especially helpful for persons with Parkinson’s disease.
Davies notes that SPC’s state-of-the-art sensing devices have been valuable during the COVID-19 pandemic in monitoring the glucose levels of affected diabetic patients who must be in hospital isolation.
Innovation and research are foundations of Sandvik’s products – and diversity plays a major role in recruitment and career development. “If you can realize the value of diversity in gender, ethnicity, maturity level, education level and work experience at the early stages, this will eventually become the standard culture for your organization,” comments Katina Whitten, SPC’s HR manager. “Having this standard allows for critical, outside the box thinking that in turn provides so many different perspectives and viewpoints.”
The company also excels in professional employee training through courses provided by Daytona State College (DSC). Thus far, the DSC programs have educated employees in
- Skills for Supervising
- Microsoft Excel and OneNote, and
- Creation of Values and Principles to Align People in Continuous Improvement Thinking
“The programs show employees that Sandvik is willing to invest in them,” Whitten says.
Frank Mercer, director of DSC’s Center for Business and Industry, wholeheartedly agrees. “The employees get a sense of being valued,” he says. “It’s a great morale builder. A productivity builder.”
Mercer explains two sessions in supervisory skills that DSC conducted for Sandvik, each with 8-12 supervisors in a 32-hour class that concluded with a graduation ceremony and certificates of completion. “It is quite a commitment to invest in the employees,” he stresses.
Mercer says the program also is an environment for supervisors to communicate and better understand each other’s issues. “The classroom is a safe environment for discussion. One that you often can’t have in a meeting,” he says. “There is a lot of cross-pollination.”
Mercer emphasizes such programs also benefit employee retention and morale. “Every HR study will show that when a company invests in its employees, it shows benefits. The employees get a sense of being valued. The investment pays dividends.”
Davies and Whitten are examples. Whitten started at SPC as an operator in 1995 and gradually worked her way up to the current HR management position.
And Sandvik financed both her and Davies’ college education.
“When I came here, I started as an engineer,” says Davies. “As my job evolved, I found I had a weakness in the business area. So Sandvik paid for my MBA (Master of Business Administration).”
Whitten notes that SPC makes an effort to promote from within. “All positions are posted internally to give existing employees an opportunity to apply. This allows us to see who is interested in moving to another position within the organization.”
Another unique way for Sandvik to display employee appreciation and promote diversity is an annual day-long “Taste of SPC” festival. It’s a multicultural company event that encourages employees with international roots to share with other workers the specialties of their families’ native countries. The employees are invited to set up tables in the company’s common area, promoting their heritage with traditional food samples and decorative items from their family’s native country.
“The Taste of SPC festival is a great way for employees to showcase how unique each and every one of us truly is and how much value that brings to the organization,” Whitten says. “It creates a feeling of belonging, inclusion and purpose for all employees.”
David Castagnacci worked at the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce for 31 years where he served as Executive Director of the Volusia County Association for Responsible Development (VCARD), a non-profit association of planning and development professionals. Prior to that, he was a news reporter and New Smyrna Beach Bureau Chief for the Daytona Beach News-Journal.