Maintenance Work / Workforce Development / Career Development

Do you and your co-workers #TrustTheProcess at your plant?

Thomas Wilk tells a tale of two teams.

By Thomas Wilk, chief editor

In January, while the Plant Services editors were reviewing the results from our 2017 Workforce survey, two interesting developments took place in the NBA:

  • The Philadelphia 76ers won more than half their games in January, and the city rejoiced while celebrating every win
  • The Chicago Bulls won more than half their games in January, and the city watched in mounting dismay as their team imploded from within

If you’re not a sports fan and just want to see the results of the new Workforce survey, then go straight Part 1 and Part 2 of our February cover story. Some of the key findings that emerged this year include a high level of alarm among front-line workers over lack of executive direction, communication, and follow-through; and the strong sense of concern among respondents across all areas of the plant that their organization's recruitment programs may not be getting the job done.

Also for the second year in a row, our survey also turned up a surprising lack of concern over the effects of automation on industry, with more than 75% of respondents reporting that they are confident their specific job will still exist in five years.

So, what do the Bulls and 76ers have to do with this survey? In a word, trust – one team has it, and one team doesn't, and it doesn't take a crystal ball or an ultrasound gun to predict which one of these teams in on the verge of failure.

"Trust" specifically is embedded in "#TrustTheProcess", a hashtag that has become the unofficial slogan of the 76ers. It's a slogan that has been hard-earned over the past three years, as the support of players, fans, and executives was tested by a strategy put in place in 2013 to rejuvenate a team that hadn't won a playoff series in 10 years and posted mediocre records hovering around the .500 mark.

The strategy, drawn up by 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie, was simple on paper, a concrete plan based on quantitative analysis yet stressful in the day-to-day reality: refill the talent pool by acquiring high draft picks, and acquire high draft picks by losing even more games than the team already had been – losing so many, in fact, that the team appeared to be deliberately sabotaging morale and fan support, if not the value of the team itself. The one point of consistency was Hinkie's request of both team and fans to trust the process he put in place, which led to the ironic use of the hashtag by disgruntled fans and press.

Fast-forward to January 2016, and the 76ers just posted one of the best months since beginning their experiment. Their star player, rookie Joel Embiid, was just named Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month, and a hashtag once used by fans in irony or disgust is now used in pride.

And the Bulls? Once January headline blared “Mistrust of the front office runs deep,” charting how players have separated into warring factions in the locker room, with none of them trusting the strategic direction that is being set by general manager Gar Forman and VP operations John Paxson. Indeed, many of the players believe that the front office is spying on them for the sake of winning PR battles and not games.

This year’s Workforce survey turned up something quite similar, in that two types of plants exist in about equal quantities: those which do and do not invest in their human capital. Do you trust the process, or are you already eyeing your next opportunity elsewhere?