Best Practices in Shift Work Operations (Part 4 of 10)

  1. It takes an order of magnitude greater effort to recruit from another plant than from the ranks of the unemployed.

During times of low unemployment, it is important to understand the cost of your options for keeping a position filled.  You can hire people off the street but there is always the “Why don’t they already have a job?”  You can use overtime or temporary labor, both of which have downsides.  You can also hire someone away from a neighboring facility.  Not a bad idea, if you can afford it.  People will not simply change jobs to make money unless the financial offer is substantial.  Why? Because they will be giving up a lot more than just an hourly rate when they leave their current job.  They will be giving up their seniority.  They will be giving up their friendships.  They will be giving up respect earned from doing their job well. They will be giving up their daily routine.  These things have value.  This is why if you want them to change jobs and come to work for you, be prepared to bid a significantly higher wage to get them.

2. 5% of your workforce will complain regardless of what you do.

It is a mistake to think that you will make everyone happy. During our several decades’ experience of surveying workers about their preferences, we couldn’t help but notice that about 5% of every workforce seems to be unhappy with any option offered. Understanding that this is normal will save you a lot of effort that is often wasted when trying to make everyone content. Therefore, being willing to move forward for the remaining 95% ─ rather than holding things up for a few nay-sayers that will not be likely to get on board ─ should be your path forward. While the discontented few needs to be listened to, they should not be given a disproportionately large amount of weight in your decision process. There is no such thing as over-communicating.

3. The single biggest factor that affects the performance of any workforce is communications.

A common mistake is assuming that any message has been received and understood after a single effort has been made. To be safe, broadcast the same message several times using a variety of platforms such as emails, bulletins, videos, Town Halls, and company newsletters and provide a format for feedback and questions.

As a rule of thumb, if you are implementing a change that the workforce should receive as a “positive” event, but they don’t perceive it that way, you have under-communicated and the workers are left nervous. A grumbling workforce is a sign that more communication is needed.

4. Try to never stop or start a piece of equipment needlessly, that’s when they will break down.

Most maintenance personnel will confirm that starting up equipment is the most likely time that it will break down.    The best way to avoid this is to never shut down needlessly.  Run continuously if possible and only stop when there is no other reasonable alternative.  Instead of stopping for breaks or shift changes, have a plan to maintain the ability to cover these traditional stoppages.  If you have seven machines that run 5 days and shut down on weekends, change your plan to running five machines non-stop for seven days a week; stopping only for maintenance or changeovers. This will give you the same amount of weekly production time while both eliminating shutdowns and idling some equipment (in this example, 2 machines) for maintenance.

5. When it comes to overtime, predictability makes it more desirable.

Most companies use overtime; some quite a bit and others rarely.  From an employee perspective, views vary. Some employees like a lot while others never want any.

One thing that most employees can agree on is that the more predictable overtime is the better. If you now announce weekend overtime on Friday, try to see if you can move that announcement to Thursday. Any little bit of improvement in early notification helps. Predictability is the best way to soften the blow of unwanted or unexpected overtime.

This is continued from Part 3 of Best Practices.

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