DICKSON, Tenn.—At the forefront of Zochem L.L.C.'s work culture is the health and safety of its 80 employees throughout two facilities.
This mindset has allowed the global supplier of zinc oxide, a key material used in rubber, plastic, glass and many other applications, to pivot through evolving work conditions this year.
"In 2020, the key pivot has been to stay abreast of the changing environment with team members, customers (and) suppliers, federally, state/province and locally for both facilities in the U.S. and Canada," said Ed Smith, vice president of sales and marketing at Zochem.
"We have continued to harness best practices as we learn more to ensure our team members see the company as always evolving."
Health and safety practices are everywhere within Zochem, from a board meeting to a toolbox talk on plant floor, Smith said. The company also promotes an open-door policy, as well as participates in a joint health and safety committee.
These wellness avenues have provided an environment that promotes collaboration and new ideas, he added.
"We use continuous improvement in all aspects of our business," Smith said.
Learning to improve and adapt to new health and safety conditions has taken root in Zochem's hiring processes, which saw many challenges throughout 2020, he said.
Bringing on new team members during a pandemic was challenging in that not everyone can work remotely.
While most of the application process could be done online and initial screenings could be conducted by phone, Zochem did host socially distant and masked in-person interviews, Smith said.
"We understand in a manufacturing environment that working from home is not conducive to all roles, and our upfront and honest approach as to what can be accommodated, while answering candidate questions or finding answers, is one of our biggest strengths," he added.
"We emphasize more than ever our health and safety record at both facilities to provide confidence to a new candidate that they are entering a place where recordable injuries and lost-time injuries are foreign, and we work together as a team to keep it that way."
Although it is not applicable for everyone, Zochem does try to accommodate employees' remote work needs.
"Flexibility in working from home, flexibility with working parents with children at home, flexibility with employees taking care of sick relatives, or even short-term allowances to do so have come up," Smith said. "But we have found that through our open communication that employees seem to bring forward any issues or concerns on a case-by-case (basis) where we can try and accommodate."
Once hired, employees become part of the "Zochem Dream Team."
"Getting hired and working day-in and day-out provides you automatic enrollment into the dream team culture," Smith said. "We believe you never want to let a teammate down, and in return, they never want to see you fall."
To create the culture, Zochem offers paths toward career advancement, with in-house safety, quality and technical skill training—especially since the facilities in Dickson and Brampton, Ontario, are FDA-, USP- and GMP-approved.
"We also offer tuition reimbursement opportunities for advancement that can provide additional value to Zochem, both today and longer term for career growth and promotional opportunities," Smith said.
Yet, Zochem's work culture is more than just health and safety initiatives and career advancement opportunities.
The company hosts events, rewards strong monthly or quarterly performances, and offers other benefits.
"We offer a few extra amenities in the workplace, along with a strong benefit package—health insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, long-term disability, 401(k) plan with company match—to continuously cater to the changing needs of our personnel, whether those changes are driven by our environment or personal life, with our great diversity within our employee base," Smith said.
Ushering in new leadership
Since being named among the Best Places to Work for 2020, Zochem has gone through a leadership change. Effective Nov. 15, Mohit Sharma took over as president and CEO of Zochem, taking the reins from previous President and CEO Rob Crittendon.
"On his recent appointment to president and CEO, Mohit has communicated and reiterated that our strength is in our people," Smith said. "Our (health and safety) record drives consistent participation to ensure satisfaction levels are exceeded for both external and internal customers.
"Mohit considers himself a product of an environment that provides growth and continued education opportunities, and will continue to instill continuous learning within the Zochem work culture."
The work experience at Zochem is created by the input of a diverse and willing team where positivity is driven by listening and reciprocation, Smith added. That same input expands with the investment in its employees for education, training and practical experiences.