Employee works at work station at Viaflex in Sioux Falls SD
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From ChatGPT to virtual reality, advanced manufacturer to share insight on ‘the future of work’

  • September 15, 2023

When it comes to “the future of work,” you might say Steven Tims lives the topic daily.

“We’re rapidly changing to a more technically focused workforce,” said Tims, the chief operating officer of Viaflex, a Sioux Falls-based leading manufacturer of innovative polymer film and sheeting solutions for agricultural, construction, energy, geomembrane, industrial, telecom and installation services.

“We have a lot of industrial manufacturing shifting to automation, which leads to new jobs for automation technicians, engineers and in business intelligence. We’ve focused a lot on modernizing our business, and we’re starting to recruit talent to support it.”

Viaflex in Sioux Falls SD

Tims will share his experience on a panel called, appropriately, “The Future of Work” at the upcoming WIN in Workforce Summit produced by the Sioux Falls Development Foundation.

The event will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 1 at the Sioux Falls Convention Center and bring together cutting-edge leaders such as Tims to share actionable insight around addressing workforce opportunities and challenges.

“I’m planning to talk a lot about ChatGPT,” Tims said. “We’ve embraced it fully. We’ve educated our team about where and how to use it. I use it daily, and we now have a council around AI at Viaflex that we’re beginning to use to ensure we’re taking full advantage of the technology available.”

Viaflex also has started to use virtual reality in employee training, leveraging that technology to save thousands in training and de-risk at the same time.

“You can virtually start up a machine very safely and simulate things,” he explained. “We can even use it to do a virtual plant tour, which is a great thing to have at a recruitment booth.”

With 450 employees and six locations across the U.S., the business that began as part of the former Raven Industries still has “a lot of startup energy,” Tims added. “We’re just trying to break through, and it takes awhile to change culture.”

Employee works at computer at Viaflex in Sioux Falls SD

He plans to discuss that at the WIN in Workforce Summit too.

After trying traditional advertising for job openings, Viaflex doubled down on referrals – tripling its referral bonus for employees, “and it’s going really well,” he said. “It’s really where our best talent is coming from.”

The company isn’t shy about its drive to recruit and retrain top talent either.

“We don’t do reductions in force; we do performance management,” Tims said.

“We do ‘A’ player salaries, but you have to perform, and we don’t care if we’re known as a company where every year the bottom 10 percent drop. We want it to be hard to get in here. We do great things for our team, we’re kindhearted people, but by dealing with people who aren’t pulling their weight, everybody else’s game goes up a little bit. So it’s this great recipe for success.”

Viaflex is a perfect example of the sort of business sharing its experience at the WIN Summit, said Denise Guzzetta, vice president of talent and workforce development at the Sioux Falls Development Foundation.

“This company truly blends a focus on people with a commitment to leveraging technology, and that’s why they’ve seen impressive growth and will continue to do so,” she said. “When you come to the WIN Summit, you’re going to experience an entire day of hearing from leaders like Steven who will challenge you to think differently, invest in new ways and see workforce gains follow.”

About the WIN in Workforce Summit

Sessions at the WIN in Workforce Summit are eligible for nine SHRM and HRCI recertification credits. The Sioux Falls Development Foundation is recognized by SHRM to offer professional development credits for SHRM-CP® or SHRM-SCP® recertification activities.

Space is limited for this transformative event, so register soon here to reserve your seat.