Keep your company culture where you want it to be

May 18, 2006
Is your facility so different than your family? Avoid a culture that allows mediocrity and condones failure.

Don’t ask me where my opinions come from. I’m not sure I know. Don’t ask me where my vision of work ethics comes from. I’m not sure about that either. I like to think it’s a matter of upbringing, watching my family work and being brought up into a hard-working culture. A great deal of that experience was embedded in my mind by the subtle and, at times, not so subtle consequences of my failure to do a job correctly. However, I knew the rules and I knew the penalties. I knew that violating rules brought a predictable but fair penalty to bear on either my freedom of movement (access to the family car), my economics (suspended allowance) or my pride (of great importance in my family). Armed with these known factors, I tended to think about my actions before acting and I wisely considered my productivity. There also were the balancing factors -- rewards and family encouragement -- for a job well-done.

Now that I’ve bared my soul, let’s talk about yours. Is your facility so different from my family? If it is, you might be condoning employee failure. If it is, you might be setting up your employees to fail. If it is, you might be unjustly punishing them for failing to reach, at least in your eyes, whatever lofty goals you have placed on their performance. People aren’t born to fail, they’re taught to fail. People don’t hire into a company with failure on their minds, they become failures by company policies, a lack of company polices and inept employee management.

I can’t help but wonder how many potentially good employees have been terminated or otherwise passed over because of unclear or poorly communicated management expectations or direction. Employees can become failures through a lack of clear direction from their supervisors, the same people who also sit in judgment of how the employee performs the duties the supervisor failed to convey. Good supervisors are more interested in the advancement of employees than in their own advancement at the expense of the employees. Good supervisors motivate employees to progress to the point where they could take over the supervisor’s duties.

It takes strong leaders to produce strong employees. It takes self-assured managers to develop self-assured employees. The Peter Principle tells us that promoting employees who lack the strength of purpose and ability to lead is a contributing factor in the empowerment to fail. This is important because when a maintenance technician puts away the hand tools to enter management, one inherits the most difficult tool in the world to work with -- another person. It’s possible to promote workforce failure by promoting an unqualified member of that same work force into a management position.

Studies have shown that, in general, management fails to appreciate the awesome responsibility supervisors have toward their employees and toward the company’s bottom line. We must provide supervisors with people skill training so they have the confidence and motivational skills necessary to lead a work force. The ability to lead must be supported by:

  • Effective reward programs
  • Effective and fair disciplinary programs
  • Willingness to fine-tune an employee’s work ethic

Four key factors govern employee performance -– pay scale, job design, advancement opportunities and personal pride. Mismanaging any of these fosters and condones employee failure. We spend millions on behavior research, motivational exercises and fostering aggressive employee performance. We should be smart enough to engender an atmosphere in which the four key factors can be applied or appreciated. Doing so minimizes employee frustration and, in turn, increases employee concentration and job performance.

The perception in industry is that there no longer exists company loyalty toward employees and there no longer exists employee loyalty toward the company. Sad, isn’t it, that companies may have progressed so far in the wrong direction? Pay close attention to the factors that empower employees and maybe, just maybe, we can turn around the other perceptions.

Carl C. Hughes in an independent maintenance planning consultant in Waynesboro, N.C. Contact him at [email protected].

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