Our manufacturing company is in big trouble. We have a high rate of turnover, low quality and decreased labor productivity. And our human resource manager has resigned to join another company. Our operational issues are compounded by some workers who are rumored to be talking to some militant union leaders from elsewhere. What can we do in the future? What are your thoughts? — Frantic Soul.
A survey on workplace safety showed that 90% of accidents on staircases involved either the top or the bottom stair. The same information was fed into a computer with the latest software on artificial intelligence to find out how stairway accidents could be reduced. The computer’s answer? “Remove the top and bottom stairs.”
Many of us are just like robots and computers. We operate on auto pilot, without applying logic to a particular situation or even without having complete information to arrive at an intelligent decision. And we often resort to a reactive approach when things go from bad to worse.
When you analyze and dissect your situation, it often boils down to one thing — a lack of a proactive communication between employees and their management. Undoubtedly, poor communication is one of the many reasons why things can go wrong in the workplace. But more than that, even if management has a dynamic employee communication program, being convincing is an indispensable requirement to make everyone happy and productive.
So take the time to think through whether your management is initiating, making, and perpetuating an effort to create a sound, proactive, two-way communication program with employees. In doing this, the following general approaches should be helpful:
One, conduct an employee morale and satisfaction survey. Of course, you may already know the answer to this, which include issues like high attrition rate, low product quality and low labor productivity, among other issues. But, it is not enough as you may only know the result but not the root causes. With an annual survey like that, you will know the general sentiments of the majority of people participating in an anonymous environment and analyzed by an external and objective expert.
The result could be your baseline in improving the overall workplace atmosphere. It could show you many things that include how the workers perceive the style or inadequacy of your line managers, the company’s working conditions, policies and many more.
Two, focus on the weak points of management or the organization. If the employees believe they’re receiving low salary and benefits and you think the opposite, show proof by offering the latest industry data from independent sources. It’s not enough to reject the contention of people in the absence of any evidence to support management view. If there are weaknesses on how managers treat their workers, then try to find out if a training program could help.
Even when one does not have a budget for training, the new HR manager could help train other line executives on how to properly supervise, counsel, and motivate their employees. In general, however, the basic thing here is that every manager must be sincere in helping their employees to achieve their career goals and aspirations in life.
Three, focus on small things that matter big to the workers. Each and every issue, no matter how trivial, is very important to a person. These things include: minor irritants between workers, a disapproved one-day vacation leave, a request for change in work schedule to pursue a college degree or other similar requests. Sometimes, it helps a little probing for management to gather all information because at times, a minor issue may be masking a more difficult situation that the employee does not want to raise.
Take note of how your managers interrupt people just because they don’t agree with what is being said. If the workers don’t agree, then your management must endeavor to patiently explain everything to those concerned.
Last, listen to what is not being said by the workers. That’s because many people don’t want to antagonize management, if not burn bridges when they leave the organization. This happens when managers think their ideas are the best and should not be questioned by low-ranking workers. So they simply leave toxic bosses and the damaged work environment.
If you’re not doing all of these four basic approaches in people management, then I will not be surprised if the workers start to invite a third party to help them form a labor union and that would spell disaster for you and your organization.
ELBONOMICS: Two people can see different things in different ways.