HR is not rocket science but it ain’t for suckas either! Sometimes… scratch that, often times the resolution to a major problem boils down to a simple question. But asking questions tend to open us up for judgment or ridicule. That’s why we don’t ask.
Recently I received an interesting challenge. Someone called with a problem and needed consultation. They operate a mid-sized warehouse and productivity has been slipping lately. The freight and packages are sitting for hours before being tracked, located and shipped. They believe that each day they are losing thousands in wasted work hours because the employees aren’t doing anything. They don’t want to lay off the workers only to have to re-hire them later. They needed some help with this solving this problem.
So I said, get this…”Did you ask the employees?”
There was about a 15 second pause of silence on the phone.
Then, “Well what do you mean?”
I explained myself, those of you in HR are all too familiar with work place analytics and work, job, production analysis. I told them that they need to review the job descriptions, the essential functions, then monitor the employees to see if they are doing versus what they are supposed to be doing and then they need to go out of the offices, go down to the floor and don’t accuse but ask!
Ask them what would make the process move faster? What are the common problems that the workers encounter? Ask them if they have the proper equipment to perform the job?
Take a page out of “Undercover Boss” and actually do what your employees do.
Sure some employees may try to avoid the truth and make excuses but some will offer valid suggestions that could save money. This will also increase engagement, morale and productivity. A strange thing tends to happen when you implement the ideas of your workers; they will work harder to succeed because they don’t want their idea to fail. It’s the “I told you so” or “I knew it” factor. They want to show you what they can do if you let them. So just let them.
I know how you all like tangible evidence, so check out the story of Ford’s CEO Alan Mulally. This guy came to Ford from a back ground in the airline industry. He knew nothing about cars. But what he did know was how to engage people. He asked the remaining front line employees for their opinions. And from one session the employees told him (paraphrasing) “We used to make the best muscle in the world with the mustang, but now we’ve lost our muscle.”
One of the first things FORD accomplished, besides NOT ACCEPTING government bailout money, was to redesign, reengineer and re-launched the Mustang. It worked. That’s just one of the ideas that came from the employees.
Don’t be afraid to ask the employees for ideas and suggestions, you may be surprised that the people you hired may actually want to contribute and take pride in their work.