Tag Archives: change management

5 things H.R. needs to know about shiftwork

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Let’s start with this – My intent with this post is NOT to tell H.R. how to do their job. Rather, I want to round up many of the issues surrounding shiftwork in an effort to put the spotlight on those I have found to be most important to H.R. professionals.

So, let’s get to the list…

#1: No one is going to come to H.R. to tell you how much they like the schedule they are currently working.  When people are unhappy, they complain. When they are happy, they are quiet.  This means that people coming to your office to complain about the schedule will ALWAYS out number those that come by to tell you they love it.  Just be aware that listening to those that come to you is not a representative sampling of your workforce.

#2:  What the average shiftwork wants or what a nearby plant is doing has little bearing on what you should be doing with your schedule.  After nearly 30 years in the business, I can tell you exactly what the average shiftworker likes and doesn’t like; and yet…I have never met an average shiftworker.  Everyone is unique.  In the same way, your business is unique from the company down the street.  What works for one company is not necessarily what will work best for you; even if you are in the same industry.

#3: As a service organization, H.R. works for several different interests including: planning, production, maintenance, quality, administration and leadership.  All of these have different functions and thus often require different shiftwork structures and outcomes.  Serving several masters is no easy task.  All need to be heard.  All need to be tended to.  Remember, if H.R. was easy, no one would need you.

#4: Recruiting and retention of skilled employees is always affected by the shift schedule being used.  Supervision, absenteeism, vacancy coverage and overtime will also be impacted.

#5: Process is everything when it comes to changing a shift schedule.  How you communicate plans and ideas as well as how you solicit input from affected parties will determine the ultimate level of success you experience with your change.

Jim Dillingham, Partner

(415) 265-1621

Jim@shift-work.com

Yes, it’s personal

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I’m often asked “Jim, what is the single most important thing we, as an organization, can do to better facilitate a schedule change.”

My answer is always the same – “Find a way to see the event through the eyes of a shiftworker.”  In other words, walk that mile in their shoes.

Companies don’t change schedules for the fun of it.  They know it has the potential to disrupt everything from planning to maintenance to hiring and training.  It’s a big undertaking and not to be taken likely.

When companies make the decision to change, they always approach the workforce with the case for change.  This “case” nearly always boils down to “We are doing this because of the needs of the business.”

While this is a great reason for change, it does not do a lot to calm the workforce’s concerns.

Here is why…

To the company, a shift schedule tells people when to be at work.  To a shiftworker, a shift schedule tells them when they DON’T have to be at work.

In other words, it tells them when they can live the rest of their lives; that part of their life not at work but instead with their families or hobbies or whatever they may be passionate about.

Yes, they will understand “the needs of the business” but its also important to understand their perspective.

When you touch a schedule, even slightly, you are touching their personal lives.  Change a start time by 15 minutes and watch the fireworks as employees can no longer pick up their kids or attend school or catch the early bus home.

You may say “We are changing the schedule to meet the needs of the business” but they are hearing “We are going to change your family life to facilitate the needs of the business.”

There is a difference.

Recognizing this difference will change the way you approach the project.  The right approach will change the outcome for the better.

Jim Dillingham

Partner, Shiftwork Solutions LLC

Jim@shift-work.com

(415) 265-1621

 

5 Signs that you may need a new shift schedule

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Shift schedules rarely fail overnight.  Typically, there are plenty of warning signs; signs that tell you to take action before it’s too late.  Here are the 5 biggest warning signs.

#1: You have idle equipment while still not producing enough to meet customer demands.  There can be a lot of reasons for this; nearly all of which point to a schedule that does not have the right people in the right place at the right time.  Product flow, staffing, maintenance and production order variability can all be addressed with the right shiftwork structure.

#2: Maintenance is blaming equipment availability for a downward trend in equipment up-time.  You can’t fix something while it’s running.  The result is often and solution like “We’ll wait until the weekend to fix it.”  This is fine until you find that leaving too much to the weekend ends up with an overly fatigued maintenance group with not enough hours on the weekend to fix everything.  Scheduling equipment, like scheduling people, can improve maintenance accomplishment while still getting the production hours you need.

#3: Absenteeism is going up as overtime starts to wear down your workforce.  As overtime goes up, two things will happen.  First of all, your workforce will start to get tired.  Secondly, they will notice that they are now making a lot of money and can afford to take time off.  This is a “death spiral”  situation in that it is self-perpetuating and will only get worse.  Staffing will impact overtime but to do so effectively, you must have a shiftwork structure to support the newly resized workforce.

#4: Local competition for labor is causing problems with recruitment and retention.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard something like “Amazon just opened a mega-facility down the street and is hiring all of our employees away from us.”  The right schedule, one that is a good fit for your workforce as well as your business can help with this.  If wages are a concern, look for ways to get overtime to that 20% of your workforce that wants all they can get.  Overtime costs your company about the same as fully loaded straight time.  This means when you pay overtime, your employees make 50% more but your cost per hour is virtually unaffected.  Don’t lose your workforce because of wage pressures or quality of life issues.  The right shiftwork structure can help.

#5: Productivity metrics are dropping as equipment runtime-hours are on the rise.  If you are running more an more hours with the same old schedule, then you are probably seeing an increase in overtime.  While overtime is not a bad idea in many instances, it can eventually lead to worker fatigue.  This is especially true if you spread it evenly across all shifts.  Remember, not all employees want the same amount of overtime.  As fatigue goes up, so will accidents, quality issues and absenteeism.  You make find, for example, that running 6 days a week yields more output than running 5 days.  However, if you didn’t change schedules, a 20% increase in runtime will yield significantly less than a 20% increase in output.

In summary, don’t underestimate the impact of having the right shiftwork structure.  Fixing this issue is often the most expeditious and cost effective way of improving your overall operations.

For more information, call me, Jim Dillingham, at (415) 265-1621 or drop me a line at Jim@shift-work.com

Change Management

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Let’s suppose someone walked into your office and said, “I just did some math and it looks like we need to make a change.” At that moment, you should realize that the easy part of Change Management has just been completed.

Yes, I’m saying that “Math is the easy part.” Putting pen to paper and arriving at a conclusion that calls for change requires only an idea and mostly high school level math skills. This is really only step one in what could be a long and complicated process.

Step One: Identify the change to be made.

This post is not about Step One. It’s about all of the other steps that must follow in order for change to be successfully implemented. Consider this the Cliff Notes on Change from someone who has spent the last 28 years making the most complicated and emotionally loaded change a company can undertake – changing shift schedules.

Here is how I do it…in no particular order:

Communicate. Talk to the people who are affected; letting them know the Why’s, When’s and How’s. Talk to the people that are unaffected but near the periphery of the change. They will hear rumors and if you leave them out of it, they will assume the worse.

Find the Feather. In every change, there are going to be good things and bad things; not necessarily balanced and not necessarily spread equally across all affected parties. Look for the “feather in the cap” as it may apply to everyone involved. Give them something to look forward to; something positive that will result from the change. Don’t leave it to them to find this for themselves.

Communicate. When telling people about the change, don’t overwhelm your audience. Too much information too quickly will result in the opposite of what you hope to occur. Instead of understanding, you will create confusion. With confusion comes anger and resistance. Meter out your information in digestible chunks.

Perspective: Understand the perspective of your stakeholders. I guarantee it’s not the same as yours. For you to address their issues, you need to know what they are concerned about as well as what they value. For example, when changing shift schedules, the workforce will care very little about how such a change strengthens a company’s competitive position. They care about how it affects their income and their time off.

Communicate. Do not hide the downside of a change. In fact, actively bring it up. Doing so will let your audience know that what you are proposing isn’t just a snow job. They will see downsides and you ignoring them will seem disingenuous. In presentations, always address the elephant in the room early on. People will know it’s there and they won’t hear a thing you say until you address it.

Create Ownership. Actively look for degrees of freedom when multiple options will lead you to the same result. Next, solicit input from your stakeholders as to what options they would most like to see pursued. They may also have options you may not have considered. In short, get them involved in the solution. If the change reflects, at least in part, input from affected parties, those parties will be more likely to support the outcome.

Communicate. (As you can see by now, I’m a proponent of communication.) When deciding what to communicate, be aware of The Fear of the Unknown. In the face of unanswered questions, people will make up their own answers. This is not a good thing. We all inherently have what is known as a negative bias. In short, our survival skills depend on our never underestimating a situation. We assume the worse because the penalty for being wrong is less than if we mistakenly assume the best. For example: Caveman Jim sees a brown blob off to the right. He can assume it’s a bear and run or he can assume it’s a rock and ignore it. If it’s a rock but he wrongly assumed it was a bear, he ran away for no reason. If he assumes it’s a rock and ignores it, but it’s a bear, then caveman Jim is going to have a bad day. To overcome this negative bias, eliminate the unknown. Communicate clearly and often. Perfect information makes for smoother change processes.

Leadership. Understand that there are different leadership styles and different situations call for different styles. Coach others to help achieve your goals when possible. Be authoritative as needed but remember, people don’t like to be told what to do. Coercive styles are rarely productive. Look for ways to empower people. Treat them with respect. Listen and respond. You want people to follow your lead by choice, not by directive.

Communicate. I’ve heard over the years that people need to hear things at least 3 times before they sink in. While this may not be a law of physics, it certainly seems to be good advice. Not only must you communicate the same message several times, you must do so using different methodologies. Group meetings are great, as are PowerPoint presentations; but they don’t work for everyone. Some people will just want to spend some informal time with the “message giver” to help them better understand what is being communicated. Some people need to read a message instead of hearing it. Many of us need some “soak time” that will allow us to process a message before we can respond. Look for innovative ways to communicate the same messages multiple times.

The 5% rule. It has been my experience that 5% of every workforce, managers included, come to work to say “no”. They are like Eeyore on Winnie the Pooh. “It will never work.” I’m not going to tell you to disregard someone that says this. After all, they may have a point. What I’m going to recommend is that you don’t over-empower these nay-sayers. Accept the fact that you will not get everyone on board with your plan. Trying to do so will have the following two consequences: (1) Your plan will eventually morph into something you didn’t originally intend and (2) You will never get that 5% on board anyway.

Communicate. Don’t put this on your to-do list and then cross it off when completed. You will never be done communicating. From conception to congratulations, communications will play a vital role in the success of any change process. Communicate timing. Communicate intent. Communicate changes in the plan. Communicate recognition. Communicate progress. Then communicate some more.

And finally, all change is loss and all loss must be grieved. I don’t say this as a low note. It is an inevitable part of life. Accept it, not as a roadblock to be overcome but as a sign that you have in fact reached that point where the inevitability of change has arrived and it is time to move on; time to implement that change. We get over this grief. Sometimes we need help but we always get over it. In the end, you will have made a change for the better.

You can contact me at Jim@shift-work.com or call at (415) 265-1621

Jim Dillingham, Partner

Shiftwork Solutions LLC

 

Don’t tell me what to do!

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After 26 years of working with hourly employees all the way up to senior corporate executives, one thing strikes me as a universal truth – We don’t like to be told what to do.

Shift workers are no different.

Knowing this, at Shiftwork Solutions, we have developed a process of communication and participation to help us through our change process.

Companies typically come to us with a shiftwork issue such as “I need to start running my 5-day operation 24/7.”  They expect us to do some math, which we do.  They expect us to work out the policies and staffing numbers, which we do.  They expect us to examine product flow and create a solution that fits their entire situation, which we do.

But most of all, they expect us to bring the workforce along on the ride.

We accomplish this using the following basic steps:

  1. We make sure the reason for change is real and understandable.  This is then communicated to the workforce.  Instead of saying, “We are changing,” we say “We need to change and this is why.”
  2. We tell the workforce what their level of involvement will be.  While some decisions are the job of upper management, many issues can, and should, be resolved using input from those most affected.  For example, the workforce can’t say, “Turn down that customer order because I want the day off.”  However, they can say, “I like this amount of overtime and I like my shifts to start at this time and I like longer shifts to give me more days off.”  All of these preferences can be managed in such a way as to have no impact on cost structures or productivity.  In short, if you can find areas to let the employees have their say, then do it.
  3. We educate the workforce.  This comes down to eliminating the fear of the unknown.  People that are unclear on what is happening tend to resist change.  They can become angry over a situation that only exists in their mind; where they filled in the blanks because no one else would.  They need to know what is possible and not possible.  For example, employees prefer you to hire additional crews to work weekends.  If you just say no, then the argument still exists.  If you say, “No and this is why,” the argument, and thus resistance fades away.

These three steps are very broad-strokes being used to briefly explain a complicated process.  The basic point is this: If you want to maximize the result of any change, then use a process that results in the workforce supporting that change.

If you have any questions, I can be reached at Jim@shift-work.com or you can call me at (415) 265-1621.