Multi-week program taught the basics, and team members express commitment for ongoing learning to welcome and support non-hearing co-worker.
GARDNER, Kansas (September 21, 2023) – OMNI Systems™ (omnisystem.com), one of America’s premier thermal label printing companies, has experienced an employee-led initiative at its Gardner, Kansas, printing facility that is a unique example of teamwork and culture-building. To support a non-hearing employee, OMNI employees with hearing requested to enroll in multi-week training to learn American Sign Language (ASL).
The request received an immediate, enthusiastic “YES” from OMNI management. “We are a nimble company,” said OMNI Systems president Mike Murton, “but this initiative won an uncommonly fast approval because the benefits were so obvious and compelling.”
Lance Triplett, OMNI’s plant manager at Gardner, said the company’s approach matches its philosophy for all employees. “Every OMNI Systems employee should feel included as part of the company,” said Triplett. “We do not want any employee to miss out. Knowing exactly what is going on at all times encourages people to join in to make OMNI – and themselves – better.”
Bringing a non-hearing employee aboard helped OMNI Systems employees and management better comprehend the need for good everyday communications – a factor so basic any team might take it for granted. The net result is more positive than anyone might have predicted: “This training absolutely moved the needle in our team’s communications, and not just with the non-hearing employee,” said Triplett. “The entire team seems to be communicating better, and the shared experience of the training has bolstered our sense of family.”
To plant sought expert help to guide its new training mission. Luckily, there was a uniquely qualified resource from nearby Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas. Cameron Symansky is an ASL instructor at the college, and also a corporate training consultant with Sorenson Communications. He was previously an educator at the Kansas School for the Deaf, and earned degrees in ASL from the University of Kansas and Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.
“ASL training makes a profound difference for companies,” said Symansky. “Imagine encountering a non-hearing person but not knowing ASL. Is that a barrier? Of course. You might muddle through by communicating in writing, pointing at things, or mouthing words to try to express your thoughts – but speed, spontaneity, and even the certainty that you have been are understood are lost. Even the emotions behind your message might be misinterpreted.”
“ASL training gives businesses the convenience of communication access between non-hearing and hearing individuals,” Symansky continued. “The workplace benefits when employees gain language knowledge and skill. And for the non-hearing employee, it removes feelings of
intimidation, awkwardness, and barriers, and replaces them with encouragement and support. We ALL need encouragement and support.”
ASL training goes beyond employees feeling comfortable – it also helps companies maintain a safe work environment, especially in a plant setting. “When Johnson County Community College contacted me about OMNI Systems and how the company had acknowledged their non-hearing employee in their workplace and wanted an ASL training, it was such a nice surprise,” said Symansky. “I was a little astonished. It is rare for companies to take these extra steps.”
Symansky was also impressed by OMNI Systems’ effort in getting proper training with the highest qualified instructors. “I am proud of OMNI Systems for doing big things, and doing them right. It was a pleasure to work with employees who made an effort to learn another language, ASL.”
As a non-hearing person himself, Symansky understands the obstacles non-hearing employees might face, and used that perspective to shape his training program. “I crafted my own content, and then consulted with qualified ASL teachers and professors for feedback.
“My curriculum begins with on Day 1 with basic broad signs (Hello, How are you, Nice to meet you, etc.),” Symansky explained. “On that first day of training, they were a little shy about learning, as if they feared feeling embarrassed about mistakes. They may have worried that I might be especially critical, since I am non-hearing. So, I supported them in every way possible, to make them feel comfortable signing to me and to their non-hearing coworker.”
“At the end of the very first session, I involved the employees in setting the ongoing lesson plan,” Symansky said. “We brainstormed about which words and workplace terms would help them most, and I used that input to develop our ongoing course content for our next six weeks of sessions. We had a progress review every Wednesday, and they improved a lot every week. This feeling of accomplishment helped inspire them to continue.”
“By the end of the training, they were very comfortable and remembered a lot,” Symansky said. “I am very proud of them for persisting.”
Triplett sees the training as an initial step towards continuous improvement. “It will be an ongoing effort as we continue to learn using Cameron’s approach. It takes time and practice to truly understand and communicate in any new language. We are dedicated to this effort.”
As for the lasting impact on the facility’s work and culture, Triplett sees the training as a holistic improvement. “The program for this difference in abilities made us examine all of our communications with all employees. Feeling more involved and informed makes all employees more confident, and contributes to accountability and teamwork.”
The initiative has also brought significant benefit for Gary, the non-hearing employee who inspired the training in the first place. “Having his coworkers request and participate in the training helped welcome him into the OMNI Systems family,” said Triplett. “It opened the door for Gary to work with us more broadly, and to teach us more beyond his basic work responsibilities – and he delivers on this every day. We showed him we are willing to learn for him, and he responded in kind. Gary is one of the most dedicated colleagues any of us have ever known. We are grateful for all he does – and are happy to say so.”
OMNI Systems various facilities are frequent winners of “Best Places to Work” awards in their various communities in Ohio, Missouri, and Kansas. Achieving such accolades is seen as the mark of a company committed to a people-first culture, thoughtful leadership, and fulfilling work. “We value our strong culture, and believe it is a key ingredient in our success” says OMNI Systems president Mike Murton. “There’s a secret to ‘Top Workplace’ awards, and that’s to start by having a top team in the first place. We are beyond proud of the leadership, care, and commitment that our employees in Gardner demonstrated with this initiative. They have set a terrific example for all OMNI Systems employees at all our locations.”
ABOUT OMNI SYSTEMS
As the largest privately owned thermal media company in the U.S., OMNI Systems™
(omnisystem.com) leads the industry in all the ways that count: Price, Quality and Service.
- Price: OMNI offers the industry’s lowest prices on thermal label, and the longest fixed pricing. In many cases, customers save 15-40% on their label spend.
- Quality: Independent customer audits have proven OMNI’s thermal label quality to be 99.9% defect-free. OMNI Systems also received a Superior Rating from AIB International, which tests all aspects of a label converter’s quality control systems and processes, from raw materials and storage to equipment testing and finished product viability.
- Service: OMNI provides customized solutions and service by devoting time up-front to understanding customers’ businesses and needs.
Inc. Magazine has recognized OMNI Systems multiple times as one of the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. The company maintains a prestigious 12 AA credit rating from Dun & Bradstreet as a financially sound company and is a multiple time winner of the Cleveland Plain Dealer Top Workplaces. OMNI Systems also received the 2023 Evolution of Manufacturing Award and Top Label Solutions Provider Award.