Pats On the Back Can Pay Off

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I have been told that I need to give my staff some positive feedback. I’m not great at that – seems gratuitous. I’m busy and get my tasks done, no one pats me on the back. Why should I do more than expect them to do their jobs?

Thoughts of the Day: Acknowledging contributions is a great way to build rapport. Start a dialogue with someone about what they’ve done well, in order to find out how they’re really doing. In an environment of tight budgets and limited pay increases, appreciation can help boost morale.

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Eliminating Disruptions in Shift Work

We run a couple different shifts most days. We’re finding information doesn’t get shared. We end up duplicating effort as one shift re-does what another shift was supposed to take care of. Not everyone gets here at the same time, so it’s hard to have a meeting. What suggestions do you have to make this work smoother?

Thoughts of the Day: Plan out the work schedule. Plan out what to do when someone inevitably doesn’t show up for a shift. Use notes that turn into checklists to document what’s been done and what still needs to be done. Assign shift supervisors with overlapping check-in and checkout times who must clear up any issues before heading home. Finally, think about a different approach.

Scheduling is both art and science. If possible, buy some scheduling software. Most industries have systems that have been customized. Check with your national industry association to see if they have any recommendations.

Have a go-to person who oversees and approves all of the schedules. It’s this person’s job to match workload and personnel. Make sure this person is good at providing write-ups of what has to happen since they won’t always be on site and the shift supervisors need direction on what work they’ll have to handle.

Put one person on each shift in charge of quality and compliance and another person in charge of inventory. These two also need to be able to work with software to track and report. If possible get an inventory system in place that the scheduler and inventory manager can both look at to know what’s in stock and what needs to be ordered to help them plan out what each shift needs to work on. The quality manager checks that work is completed on time, is error free and provides feedback to shift supervisors. Make it clear what has to happen if employees want to swap shifts. Who do they go to for permission and how does permission get recorded so everyone is on board? What do replacements need to know and how are they informed? Is there any specific training /certification needed for a replacement to be eligible? What does the original shift worker have to do to ensure their work is properly covered?

Keep a schedule that everyone can access. If everyone doesn’t have access to a computer, post a daily roster — looking ahead at least two weeks. Show replacements by crossing out the original worker’s name, so that everyone knows who is responsible for ensuring the shift is covered.

In case of breakdown, make it the original shift worker’s responsibility along with the person who agreed to cover the shift to diagnose and prevent problems in the future. Meet with both to discuss the breakdown and ask them how they could have avoided the problem. Put suggestions in writing and make them part of the policy manual, which gets distributed to everyone.

Set aside time to cross train people so they can step into each other’s jobs. Have day-shift people train on the evening shift, and vice versa, as there’s a different boss, rhythm and set of tasks that have to be dealt with on each shift.

As much as you want teams to be self-managing, you still need points of contact. Make shift supervisors the primary point of communication between shifts. Everyone feeds them information about what’s going on before, during and after each shift. It’s their job to work with their teams and each other to smooth out disruptions.

Any time there is a change in shifts, that’s a disruption to work flow. Disruptions equal loss of productivity. Investing in equipment necessary to have more people work at one time may be less costly than dealing with constant interruptions from shift changes. Think about asking employees to work longer hours but fewer days — people may enjoy having more days off during the week and can be more focused during the concentration of work days.

Looking for a good book? Try “Work Rules! Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead” by Laszlo Bock.

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Get Your Succession Plan in Order Now

We have always tried to recruit good people, promoting from within if possible. We think we have people in place who could play a significant role in the company’s next generation. We need to understand their capabilities and commitments on a whole different level. And we need to be clear about our expectations of them. Is there a match? If we mess up, this company’s future could be in doomed, or we could be back in the driver’s seat exactly when we’re ready to retire.

Thoughts of the Day: Planning out the next generation can be a challenge. “Now” is almost always the right answer when considering if it’s time to get moving on figuring out the future. Looking for talent inside the company is smart. Knowing when talent has to come in from outside is crucial. Figuring out any gaps well ahead of time gives you options.

Looking to the future can be intimidating. Thinking who might run the company when you’re no longer around shows that you’re mortal and replaceable. Who wants to admit to either of those? Most owners underestimate the time and effort needed to form a succession solution. Or, they get busy running the company and don’t make time to work through the detail. Or, they follow the model they have followed — one person in charge — without realizing that a management team might do a better job.

Lack of clarity about succession leaves employees farther down the line in the dark as to what might unfold if something were to happen to the current owner(s). If something unexpected happens, you want people who are prepared to step up. You want everyone in the organization to actively support those who do step forward. It’s easier to follow a plan already in place that everyone agreed to when there was the benefit of time to work through details.

It is preferable to be prepared with a solution than to be caught short. That means taking time to brainstorm and plan, even if those plans eventually get scrapped in favor of new plans. Having options is always better than being faced with a critical decision and no preparation.

Start by assessing the talent pool inside the company. Ask people what they’re good at, what they want to learn about and where they see themselves in the future. Expose employees to leadership and opportunities beyond their current roles.

Make it part of everyone’s job to participate in some form of outside education every year. Try job sharing with a peer company to expose your employees to another way of doing things and to bring in people who might look differently at how business gets done. Find out who wants to step up and who is more comfortable taking a backseat role.

Make sure to profile the jobs at the top. What are the jobs today? What skills and talents will be required five to 10 years from now as the company continues to grow and the marketplace changes?

It’s worth noting that any organization knows what it knows — and that’s not everything. There are ideas, solutions, suggestions and options that others have thought about that could be useful to consider. Some of those outside ideas might get rejected and some might be a fit. Ignoring the possibilities that others can bring to the table is just plain dumb.

Constantly challenge your team to get smarter, faster and better at what they do by exposing them to things outside the company. Ask employees to take courses, go on sabbatical, spend time working for another company. Try anything that helps to expand their horizons with information that they could bring back to help your company.

If there are gaps in what the company needs to know — at present or in the future — you have a couple options. Hire the talent. Hire teachers to train your employees. Get people to practice through simulations — for example take time off and let your employees deal with what comes up.

Right now, unless you’re in crisis, your company has time to work through its succession planning needs. Working on successions planning is job number one for every business owner. Ensure that the company is prepared for change and smooth transitions, ready to step into its future when the old guard steps down.

Looking for a good book? Try “Leaders at All Levels: Deepening Your Talent Pool to Solve the Succession Crisis” by Ram Charan.

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