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September  2004


The Right People Make the Difference
Take the Time to Invest in your Workforce

by Mike Biffl

As with any manufacturing operation, window manufacturers are required to make major investments in plants and equipment. These investment decisions are studied to ensure the payback is sufficient to justify the initial capital outlay. Management spends weeks or months reviewing locations for a facility. The time, effort and dollars invested in these decisions are appropriate, and the decisions made can make or break a company. However, these physical assets are not the most critical elements to a company’s success. The people inside the plant who run the equipment will determine the future of the organization. 

Often times the people side of the equation is overlooked. Hiring is done quickly without much involvement by the people who know what is required for the employee to be a valuable member of the team. 

Finding the Right Fit
The first task in hiring good employees is to find people who fit in with the culture of the organization. Are you a lean operation that values an employee’s ability to learn multiple tasks and perform them well? Is your plant geared more toward employees who focus on one task and are expected to become adept at that one thing? Is it more important to find experienced people who can step in and add value the first day or do you want those who do not bring the bad habits learned in another organization?

The answers to these questions will steer you in the direction you need to go to look for the people who can make your company profitable. Before you can hire the right individuals, you need to know who the right person is. 

Once you have done your homework, the types of individuals to hire will be identified. You have recruited, interviewed and rejected many and hired a few. Now what? How can you make these people a team? How can you get them to commit to making your company profitable? 

The hiring process is not an inexpensive proposition. High turnover increases the cost a great deal. Once the people you select come on board, you need to get them to feel like a part of the team as quickly as possible. Making employees feel important can be the difference between an employee who disappears at lunch time on his third day and one who commits himself to a long-term relationship with your company.

Start the training process immediately. Whenever possible, it is good to hire a number of people and bring them in for group training with an overview of the company, its goals and its commitment to the employees as the focus of their introduction to their new home. The group environment for this orientation process makes the new hires more comfortable. None of them feel like the “new guy.” Instead, they are surrounded by new employees facing the same fears, challenges and opportunities. 

After the employees are acclimated to their new surroundings they need to be initiated into the organization. Placing one or two new hires under the wing of an experienced employee gives them a quick taste of what is going to be expected a daily basis. Only the most valued employees should be trusted with the task of training. Bad attitudes are adopted easily and poor performance is copied more quickly than consistent, high-value performance. Once the new employees feel comfortable and have shown that they can be valuable additions to the work force, the company should invest in specific training in the tasks they will be required to do. This is where your equipment suppliers can be invaluable partners in the training process.

Continue Investing
Most machinery suppliers offer some level of training, and your new employees should be given the opportunity to take advantage of this. The knowledge that their new employer is spending real dollars to make them a more integral part of the team is worth far more than the cost to have them trained. In addition, you have spent a large amount of money to put the right equipment in your facility to help make your product efficiently. The people operating and maintaining that equipment should be trained properly to ensure that they will get the most out of your equipment. This will pay for itself many times over as you develop a cohesive, skilled and loyal workforce in your plant.

People Make the Difference
People are the most valuable resource you have. Treat them like the critical assets they are. Remember that your competitors have nice facilities and quality equipment too. Make your people and their attitudes the difference that allows your operation to be the one others look to as a leader. 

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