In today’s competitive economy, efficient productivity is everything. This blog has presented numerous examples of systems and methodologies that can lead to exceptional performance to best weather today’s manufacturing transformation. But operational excellence requires more than better equipment and IT systems – your human capital must be carefully selected, groomed and maintained. Whip-cracking and obsessive time-and-motion studies are not likely to produce the results you want. In fact, the return on investment of implementing new machinery and systems can all be lost if your employees don’t feel like they are an important component to your company’s success.
The following 10 guidelines consider factors of psychology and communication that I believe are essential to managers to embrace if they are ready to transform a room of hires into a dynamic dream team capable of delivering the levels of manufacturing operational excellence that is needed to remain viable in today’s fiercely competitive global economy.
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1. Set a clear protocol for goals and expectations
Even the most efficient team in the world will have difficulty in reaching goals that are unclear to them. By the same token, you should outline the parameters of your own role in a relation to the team in an unambiguous way.
Whenever and wherever possible, quantify the goals and roles that you set for your team. For example, if your company needs to fulfill a production quota within a certain amount of time, it is crucial to let your team know of what is expected. This not only prevents unnecessary friction when a quota is not met, it’s an automatic morale-booster when the team has exceeded in meeting the quota.
2. Avoid sending mixed messages
An effective manager should be a bit of a psychologist, in the sense that he or she needs to understand how to best reinforce positive behavior and discourage unwanted behavior. While your team members are more complicated than Pavlov’s dogs, requesting one thing one day and providing inconsistent feedback when they produce the results you specified on the next is not going to produce the behavior you desire.
3. Offer solid incentives
Just as goals should be translated into numbers, so should rewards systems. In manufacturing, this is a straightforward task: simply set up a bonus system that rewards team members’ production of units. When your entire team exceeds expectations, provide gainsharing. Because gainsharing incentives have been shown to raise productivity by an astounding 1,000%, such a strategy will be a bottom-line boon even with generous compensations.
4. Criticize in private; applaud in public
When giving feedback to your team, the context of your message can be as important as the content. On the one hand, make sure that you deal with individual, personal problems are harming efficiency, embarrassing that worker in front of peers is likely to make the problem worse. For similar reasons, you should vocalize approval for a job well-done in front of the crew.
5. Facilitate interaction among workers
Study after study has shown that when a set of individuals identifies as a group, productivity rises. Therefore, encourage your crew members to interact as much as possible. This might mean designing the work area to allow for banter among team members, or even sowing the seeds for more extracurricular bonding (such as group lunches or after work socializing).
6. Don’t ignore employees needs
A team’s sense of well-being is crucial to maximizing performance, so make sure you meet this on every level. From creating a safe, efficient and even aesthetically pleasing workspace to giving promotions when warranted, addressing the very human desires to feel secure, appreciated and meaningful to others will help them—and you.
7. Lead by example
While this is not literally feasible when there is a qualitative gap between the duties of workers and management, you should demonstrate precisely the ideals you would like your team to embrace. For example, giving speeches about making sacrifices and working overtime when you regularly take executive lunches is not likely to boost morale.
8. When possible, encourage variety
Employees who are appointed to different roles tend to be more productive. Of course, this is a trick on floors that rely on an acute specialization of labor, but to the extent that you can, switch up job assignments from time to time. When workers see their vocation as an endless treadmill, their efficiency suffers.
9. Seek out feedback
Many of the steps above are worthless without a clear and honest feedback loop between team members and management. In every way possible, create conditions in which every member of the crew feels that their voice is appreciated.
10. Be aware of your emotions
Workers rarely respond well to irritable, negative or manic bosses. Without being overly stoic, try to keep business all business and never personal. Showing that you can be calm in challenging situations will bolster group confidence in your leadership skills—and help productivity.
Communicating with your team effectively is key to maintaining overall efficiency. If you find that your team is running behind and lacks motivation, consider these tips to boosting their morale. A company that has invested in world class systems processes and equipment won’t be able to function competitively if their staff are disgruntled or are not operating cohesively as a well-integrated team.
Marcela De Vivo can be found on Google+.